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Helene Chung

When journalist Helene Chung grew up in Hobart in the 1960s, there were fewer than one hundred Chinese living there, and her complicated family seemed to include almost all of them. Her great-grandfather came to Australia for gold, but succumbed to opium. He was rescued by her grandfather, who worked in the Tasmanian tin mines, founding a small dynasty as brothers and cousins arrived with their multiple wives, and married more in Australia. It sounds like a familiar story, but as it unfolds the author’s intelligence and determination create an idiosyncratic portrait of what first- and second-generation migrants endure, and how they triumph.

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This book is dedicated to all Asian Australians. Like the term ‘Chinese Australian’, ‘Asian Australian’ is revealing to my baby-boomer generation of Australian-born Chinese, for we have lived most of our lives known as Australian Chinese, a term that stresses our ethnic background over our Australian birthplace, even though our families have contributed to Australia for four, five or six generations. We may not speak a word of our ancestral tongue, and may never have trod the land of our forebears. The new term recognises that the growing numbers of Australians of Cambodian, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Malay, Thai, Vietnamese and other Asian heritage are equally Australian as are white Anglo-Celtic Australians.

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