Hapa Girl by May-lee Chai

Hapa Girl

In the mid-1960s, Winberg Chai, a young academic and the son of Chinese immigrants, married an Irish-American artist. In "Hapa Girl" (hapa is Hawaiian for mixed) their daughter tells the story of this loving family as they moved from Southern California to New York to a South Dakota farm by the 1980s. In their new Midwestern home, the family finds itself the object of unwelcome attention, which swiftly escalates to violence. The Chais are suddenl...

Details Hapa Girl

TitleHapa Girl
Release DateMar 16th, 2007
PublisherTemple University Press
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Cultural, China, Biography, Biography Memoir

Reviews Hapa Girl

  • Arminzerella
    May-Lee Chai grew up in Southern California, New York, and South Dakota with her Chinese father (Winberg), Caucasian mother (Carolyn), and younger brother, Jeff. Their lives were relatively normal until May-Lee’s father accepted a position in South Dakota and moved the family there. Suddenly they were in a hotbed of racial tensions and prejudice. Because they were darker-skinned outsiders (who could be mistaken for Native Americans – and ther...
  • TL
    I agree with the mixed and half-hearted reviews of this memoir. Chai's writing is beautiful and eloquent at times. She is obviously intelligent, well-read, and educated. She is from a beautiful family, one that fits the stereotype of attractive hapas. I can see that she looks up to her brother. I look up to mine, too, and our brothers have a similar physical appearance. I do empathize with her, and I know that the racism she and her family encoun...
  • Candace
    "And so I began to write about the things I thought I would never tell another soul as long as I lived, because I realized that my mother would have wanted me to do so. I would not be embarrassing my family, as I had felt for so many years. I would, at last, be telling the story of how our mixed-race family moved from the New York metropolitan area to a rural community fearful of change, were attacked savagely, yet found a way to survive."
  • nina
    This book is a memoir of a woman's childhood growing up with a Chinese father and a white mother in a small town in South Dakota, where small town hospitality is not extended to outsiders, foreign devils, Japs or Chinks, all of which they are perceived to be.May-lee Chai does a good job of capturing the experience of racism at an age where race doesn't even exist. She also weaves in historical events to perhaps explain or at least put into contex...
  • Sarah
    This adult memoir is a little bitter and I'm not all that thrilled that I read it. Chai is 1/2 Chinese and 1/2 Caucasian. She had an ideal childhood in California until she moved to South Dakota and encountered racism. She was teased, her dogs were shot, and the locals made their lives miserable. Yep, they did. And she used grades and her smarts to last her throughout high school. But, I thought she was awfully whiny.
  • Diane
    This was being passed around our knitting group where some actually remembered the family, since this is set in our town. I do believe things are better here 30-some years later.
  • ABC
    This is the memoir of a girl whose mom is white and dad is Chinese. Her family moved to a small college town in South Dakota and faced racism there--not just racism against Asians, but also racism against Native Americans, which her brother was often mistaken for. The book is also about her family and farm life (there is a whole chapter on cannibal chickens.) In the end, she concludes that racism is all around the world and not just a South Dakot...
  • Ellie
    May-Lee Chai's likable narrator takes us through her life as a biracial child (Chinese father, Irish-American mother) growing up in a racist South Dakota. In the memoir, Chai intertwines her own experiences with the history of Native Americans' and others' battles with discrimination, hate crimes, etc.The voice is incredibly companionable and the book is both easy to read (because of the voice) and difficult because of its content. A worthwhile p...
  • Valarie
    Chai skillfully weaves facts, memories, and experiences into her memoir of being a mixed-race Asian girl in a small - and racist - South Dakota town. The historical perspective of discrimination against Asian-Americans is excellent. Chai's recollections are also touching and interesting, but I couldn't give this book a perfect rating because bitterness still clouds many of her memories, so it ends up sounding very subjective.