Cover image for Inseparable : the original Siamese twins and their rendezvous with American history / Yunte Huang.
Title:
Inseparable : the original Siamese twins and their rendezvous with American history / Yunte Huang.
Author:
ISBN:
9780871404473
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Liveright Publishing Corporation, a Division of W.W. Norton & Company, [2018]
Physical Description:
xxvi, 388 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Contents:
In Siam. Siam ; The Chinese twins ; Cholera ; The king and us ; Departure -- First years. A curiosity in Boston ; The monster, or not ; Gotham city ; The city of brotherly love ; Knocking at the gate ; Racial freaks ; Sentimental education -- America on the road. The great eclipse ; A satirical tale ; The Lynnfield battle ; An intimate rebellion ; Old dominion ; Emancipation ; A parable ; America on the road ; The deep south ; Head bumps -- Look homeward, angel. Wilkesboro ; Traphill ; A universal truth ; Foursome ; Mount Airy, or Monticello ; The age of humbugs ; Minstrel freaks -- The Civil War and beyond. Seeing the elephant ; Reconstruction ; The last radiance of the setting sun ; Afterlife -- Epilogue: Mayberry, USA.
Abstract:
A portrait of nineteenth-century conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker describes their rise from savvy side-show celebrities to wealthy Southern gentry and discusses how their experiences reflected America's historical penchant for objectifying differences.

"With wry humor, Shakespearean profundity, and trenchant insight, Yunte Huang brings to life the story of America's most famous nineteenth-century Siamese twins. Nearly a decade after his triumphant Charlie Chan biography, Yunte Huang returns with this long-awaited portrait of Chang and Eng Bunker (1811-1874), twins conjoined at the sternum by a band of cartilage and a fused liver, who were "discovered" in Siam by a British merchant in 1824. Bringing an Asian American perspective to this almost implausible story, Huang depicts the twins, arriving in Boston in 1829, first as museum exhibits but later as financially savvy showmen who gained their freedom and traveled the backroads of rural America to bring "entertainment" to the Jacksonian mobs. Their rise from subhuman, freak-show celebrities to rich southern gentry; their marriage to two white sisters, resulting in twenty-one children; and their owning of slaves, is here not just another sensational biography but a Hawthorne-like excavation of America's historical penchant for finding feast in the abnormal, for tyrannizing the "other"--A tradition that, as Huang reveals, becomes inseparable from American history itself."--Publisher's description.
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Summary

Summary

Nearly a decade after his triumphant Charlie Chan biography,Yunte Huang returns with this long-awaitedportrait of Chang and Eng Bunker (1811-1874), twinsconjoined at the sternum by a band of cartilage and a fusedliver, who were "discovered" in Siam by a British merchant in1824. Bringing an Asian American perspective to this almostimplausible story, Huang depicts the twins, arriving in Bostonin 1829, first as museum exhibits but later as financially savvyshowmen who gained their freedom and traveled the backroadsof rural America to bring "entertainment" to the Jacksonianmobs. Their rise from subhuman, freak-show celebrities to richsouthern gentry; their marriage to two white sisters, resulting intwenty-one children; and their owning of slaves, is here not justanother sensational biography but a Hawthorne-like excavationof America's historical penchant for finding feast in the abnormal,for tyrannizing the "other"--a tradition that, as Huangreveals, becomes inseparable from American history itself.


Author Notes

Yunte Huang is a Guggenheim Fellow and a professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Transpacific Imaginations and Charlie Chan, which won the 2011 Edgar Award and was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography. Having come of age in China as a student in the time of Tiananmen, Huang now lives in Santa Barbara, California.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Guggenheim Fellow Huang (Charlie Chan) offers a fresh perspective on the lives of the famous conjoined twins, Chang and Eng Bunker, that focuses on two 19th-century trends: Americans' celebration of white individualism and their desire for entertainment, especially at freak shows. Born in Siam (now Thailand) in 1811, Chang and Eng arrived in the U.S. in 1829, under contract with a Scottish merchant named Robert Hunter for exhibition as curiosities. The appearances of the two young men in major U.S. cities sparked numerous public discussions about religion, the soul, and individuality. The liveliest parts of the book capture the exhibitions, which continued for a decade. More sobering is Huang's recounting of how race affected the twins' lives. Shocked to learn that, because they were Asian, most Americans considered them enslaved workers, Chang and Eng insisted on an improved business contract in 1832. Testing the boundaries of racial conventions, they married two white sisters in North Carolina in 1843, purchased slaves, and supported the Confederacy. The lives of Chang and Eng brilliantly shine here. Illus. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

THE OUTSIDER, by Stephen King. (Scribner, $30.) When police officers arrest a small-town English teacher and Little League coach for murder, the case looks watertight. But this isn't a police procedural, it's a Stephen King novel; so nothing, of course, is what it seems. OUR KIND OF CRUELTY, by Araminta Hall. (MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) In this searing, chilling sliver of perfection about a toxic relationship, the man is the crazy psychopath - or is he? That doubt lingers all the way through the stunning final pages of a book that may well turn out to be the year's best thriller. SAVING CENTRAL PARK: A History and a Memoir, by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers. (Knopf, $30.) The inspiring story of how one woman, in the face of considerable resistance, created a partnership to privately augment the funding and management of Manhattan's beloved park, rescuing what had become "a ragged 843acre wasteland." ROBIN, by Dave Itzkoff. (Times/Holt, $30.) A generous, appreciative biography of Robin Williams by a New York Times culture reporter. The author, who had access to Williams and members of the comedian's family, is an unabashed fan but doesn't shy away from the abundant messiness in his subject's personal life. INSEPARABLE: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous With American History, by Yunte Huang. (Liveright, $28.95.) In Huang's hands, the story of the conjoined twins Chang and Eng is as much an account of 19th-century American culture as a tale of exploited individuals who themselves became exploiters. SABRINA, by Nick Drnaso. (Drawn and Quarterly, $27.95.) This graphic novel is a Midwestern gothic tale for our times, recounting the story of a woman's disappearance and murder, seen through the eyes of her bereaved boyfriend as he watches the trolls and conspiracy theorists dissect her death online. It's a shattering work of art. SOME TRICK: Thirteen Stories, by Helen DeWitt. (New Directions, $22.95.) DeWitt's manic, brilliant new ???' ^ d collection explores her interest in "fiction that shows the way mathematicians think." Populated by genW'ršíš? iuses and virtuosos, the stories are zanily cerebral " and proceed with fractal precision. PATRIOT NUMBER ONE: American Dreams in Chinatown, by Lauren Hilgers. (Crown, $27.) This deeply reported account tracks an immigrant couple's struggle to remake their lives in America while staying connected to their hometown in China. SECRET SISTERS OF THE SALTY SEA, by Lynne Rae Perkins. (Greenwillow, $16.99; ages 8 to 12.) An exquisite summer story about a girl's first beach vacation, in which she discovers the wonders of the ocean and shifts in sisterly bonds. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books


Library Journal Review

Chang and Eng Bunker became part of American culture in 1824 when they were brought over from Siam, now Thailand, to become sideshow spectacles. While the conjoined brothers have been the subject of numerous books, including Darrin Strauss's fictional take on their life, Chang and Eng, Huang (English, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Charlie Chan) reexamines the twins' lives in both a historical and cultural context. The author looks past their celebrity to explore how two immigrants were able to free themselves from their manager to become slave-owning plantation proprietors in North Carolina in the years before the Civil War. The narrative follows the Bunkers on their trip across Jacksonian America, viewing events and issues that helped shape the country. While the focus often shifts to these larger cultural events, Huang has placed the rise of the sideshow and "otherness" as a central aspect of the American identity. VERDICT Huang's elegantly written biography uses the life story of Chang and Eng Bunker as a critique of a young America. Highly recommended to readers of cultural history.-John Rodzvilla, Emerson Coll., Boston © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Prologue: A Game on the High Seasp. xv
Part 1 In Siam
1 Siamp. 3
2 The Chinese Twinsp. 6
3 Cholerap. 15
4 The King and Usp. 20
5 Departurep. 26
Part 2 First Years
6 A Curiosity in Bostonp. 39
7 The Monster, or Notp. 51
8 Gotham Cityp. 57
9 The City of Brotherly Lovep. 66
10 Knocking at the Gatep. 70
11 Racial Freaksp. 80
12 Sentimental Educationp. 89
Part 3 America on the Road
13 The Great Eclipsep. 97
14 A Satirical Talep. 102
15 The Lynnfield Battlep. 108
16 An Intimate Rebellionp. 117
17 Old Dominionp. 125
18 Emancipationp. 131
19 A Parablep. 138
20 America on the Roadp. 146
21 The Deep Southp. 163
22 Head Bumpsp. 170
Part 4 Look Homeward, Angel
23 Wilkesborop. 187
24 Traphillp. 197
25 A Universal Truthp. 206
26 Foursomep. 225
27 Mount Airy, or Monticellop. 235
28 The Age of Humbugsp. 252
29 Minstrel Freaksp. 268
Part 5 The Civil War and Beyond
30 Seeing the Elephantp. 283
31 Reconstructionp. 297
32 The Last Radiance of the Setting Sunp. 306
33 Afterlifep. 317
Epilogue: Mayberry, USAp. 327
Acknowledgmentsp. 349
Notesp. 351
Selected Bibliographyp. 373
Indexp. 381