Author Profile: Connie Young Yu [in Notable Asian Americans]
“One of the best introductions I have been given was at a meeting at the Chinese Historical Society. The person said, ‘Connie only writes for a purpose,'” explained Connie Young Yu to Terry Hong. “Boy, did he get that right. I write when I feel there’s a cause … And sometimes I feel guilty because writers are always supposed to keep writing, … but unless I feel the need, the commitment, it doesn’t happen.”
The author of countless articles and two books (Profiles in Excellence: Peninsula Chinese Americans and Chinatown San Jose, U.S.A.) that focus predominantly on Chinese Americans, Yu has established herself as a writer with a historical cause. “When I started writing,” she continued, “it was for a purpose. I needed to establish Chinese America, to put our history back in its place in American history.” Through articles, essays, lectures, and community activities, Yu has devoted her energies for more than a quarter of a century in rediscovering a history of Chinese and Asian America that has, for the most part, been forgotten, overlooked, and even hidden.
Born on June 19, 1941, in Los Angeles, California, Connie Young Yu lived in nearby Whittier for the first six years of her life. When she was six months old, her father left the family to fight in World War II for three and a half years. “Even though I was too young to remember my father’s actual leaving, I still have a very strong sense of World War II. I was about 4 when he came back. During the time he was gone, I always felt a sense of patriotism, of pride in being American,” she recalled.
In 1947, Yu’s family moved to San Francisco’s Chinatown where her father became a soy sauce manufacturer. “Most of the people who lived in Chinatown were involved professionally with Chinatown,” she explained. The family later moved to the Richmond district of San Francisco: “We were one of the first Chinese families there and we were the very first on our block. There was lots of prejudice in those days and because of the discrimination, my father had to have an Army buddy buy our house and then he bought it from the friend. It was that way for a lot of Chinese American families,” Yu remembered.
The Extended Family
Yu grew up surrounded by Chinese Americans of various generations. In addition to grandparents who lived with the family for many years, the Young house also provided a home base for many older Chinese American bachelors who did not have families of their own as a direct result of the limits against Chinese immigration into the United States. “So many old men were always coming to the house,” explained Yu. “I was always aware of the several generations and I felt very fortunate to have experienced that … I thought that’s the way it was supposed to be, to always have all those generations living together.” …[click here for more]
Readers: Young Adult, Adult