In honor of Women’s History Month, the Museum of Chinese in America is proud to collaborate with Playwright Lyra Nalan to present a staged reading of PAPER DREAM in remembrance of women detainees on Angel Island, the chief port of entry for Chinese and other immigrants from Asia.
Popularly known as “Ellis Island of the West,” Angel Island immigration station was created in 1910. Different from Ellis Island, which reinforced the U.S. immigration laws that restricted but not excluded European immigrants, it enforced immigration policies that singled out Asians for exclusion, particularly Chinese immigrants, after the implementation of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. Cases involving Chinese received particular scrutiny due to perceived widespread attempts to circumvent Chinese exclusion through purchasing the papers and identity of Chinese American citizens, or “paper son” system. To ascertain false claims, Chinese were subjected to interrogations with detailed questions concerning family history, relationships and day-to-day life that typically lasted two to three days, and sometimes even longer. Because of these harsh interrogations, Chinese immigrants had one of the highest rejection rates at the Angel Island Immigration Station. Chinese also made up the majority of the detainee population, around 70%. Between 200 and 300 men and 30 to 50 women were detained at any given time (The Making of Asian America, Erica Lee, pp. 96-100).
Set in 1930, PAPER DREAM follows the story of a former Chinese aristocrat attempting to bring her daughter to America but finding herself trapped in Angel Island Detention Center with a working-class mother and a young woman with a questionable past.