Today’s Chinese American Heroine: Judy Yung
Name in English: Judy Yung
Name in Chinese: Simplified [Traditional]
Name in Pinyin: Tan Bifang
Birth Year: 1946
Birth Place: San Francisco, California
Current location: Santa Cruz, California
Profession (s): Librarian, Historian, Writer, Professor
Education: Bachelor of Arts, English Literature & Chinese Language, San Francisco State University, 1967; Master of Arts, Library Science, University of California, Berkeley, 1968; Ph.D., Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 1990
Awards: 2006, Lifetime Achievement Award, Association for Asian American Studies; 2003, Excellence Through Diversity Award, University of California – Santa Cruz; 1999, Excellence in Teaching Award, University of California – Santa Cruz; 1997, Jeanne Farr McDonnell Book Award (for Unbound Feet), Women’s Heritage; 1996, Robert G. Athearn Book Award (for Unbound Feet), Western History Museum; 1996, National Book Award in History, Association for Asian American Studies; 1996, Distinguished Award for Culture, Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco; 1987, Outstanding Asian Women of the Year, Asian Women’s Resource Center, San Francisco; 1982, The Before Columbus Foundation Book Award (for Island); 1980, Outstanding Citizen Award, Oakland Museum
Contribution (s): Born in San Francisco Chinatown in 1946, Judy Yung is the fifth daughter in a family of five girls and one boy. Her parents were immigrants from China and worked most of their lives as a janitor and seamstress to support the family. Yung was able to acquire a bilingual education by attending both public school and Chinese language school through high school.
For ten years Yung worked as a public librarian, first at the Chinatown Branch of the San Francisco Public Library, and later at the Asian Branch of the Oakland Public Library. She pioneered the development of Asian language materials and Asian American interest collections in the public library to better serve the growing population of Asians in America. In between these two library positions, she spent four years working as associate editor of East West Chinese American Weekly. There she acquired the skills of a journalist, came to a deeper understanding of the Chinese American community, and learned to be proud of her identity as a Chinese American woman.
The 1970s was a time of social ferment and political awakening for Asian Americans. Wanting to do her part to reclaim her history as a Chinese American woman and to set the Chinese American historical record straight, she wrote her first two books. Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940, which she co-authored with Him Mark Lai and Genny Lim, included translations of 135 Chinese poems and oral history interviews with 39 former detainees and staff who once worked on Angel Island. Chinese Women of America: A Pictorial History was published in conjunction with the first traveling exhibit on the subject. Yung then decided to return to graduate school to learn how to be a better historian. Upon receiving her Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies, she was hired to establish an Asian American Studies program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She taught courses in Asian American studies, women’s history, oral history, and mixed race there until she retired in 2004.
Her other publications include the critically acclaimed Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco; Unbound Voices: A Documentary History of Chinese Women in San Francisco; Chinese American Voices: From the Gold Rush to the Present, co-edited with Gordon H. Chang and Him Mark Lai; Images of America: San Francisco’s Chinatown; and her husband’s memoirs, The Adventures of Eddie Fung: Chinatown Kid, Texas Cowboy, Prisoner of War.
Now retired, Judy Yung is currently working on a new narrative history of the Angel Island immigration station with Professor Erika Lee under the auspices of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation. Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America will cover the diverse experiences of the many immigrant groups that were processed through Angel Island between 1910 and 1940. It is slated to be published in 2010 to coincide with the centennial celebration of the immigration site and the grand opening of the new museum.
Publications: Judy Yung, The Adventures of Eddie Fung: Chinatown Kid, Texas Cowboy, Prisoner of War (2007)
Judy Yung and Chinese Historical Society of America, San Francisco’s Chinatown (Images of America) (2006)
Judy Yung, Gordon Chang, and Him Mark Lai, Chinese American Voices: From the Gold Rush to the Present (2006)
Judy Yung, Unbound Voices: A Documentary History of Chinese Women in San Francisco (1999)
Judy Young, Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco (1995)
Franklin Ng, Judy Yung, Stephens S. Fugita, and Elaine H. Kim, New Visions in Asian American Studies: Diversity, Community, Power (Association for Asian American Studies) (1994)
Judy Yung, Chinese Women in American: A Pictorial History (1986)
Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, Judy Yung, Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 (1980)