• Non-Fiction
  • From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement

From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement

Updated
from a whisper to a rallying cry

A compelling account of the killing of Vincent Chin, the verdicts that took the Asian American community to the streets in protest, and the groundbreaking civil rights trial that followed. 

America in 1982: Japanese car companies are on the rise and believed to be putting U.S. autoworkers out of their jobs. Anti–Asian American sentiment simmers, especially in Detroit. A bar fight turns fatal, leaving a Chinese American man, Vincent Chin, beaten to death at the hands of two white men, autoworker Ronald Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz.

Paula Yoo has crafted a searing examination of the killing and the trial and verdicts that followed. When Ebens and Nitz pled guilty to manslaughter and received only a $3,000 fine and three years’ probation, the lenient sentence sparked outrage. The protests that followed led to a federal civil rights trial―the first involving a crime against an Asian American―and galvanized what came to be known as the Asian American movement.

Extensively researched from court transcripts, contemporary news accounts, and in-person interviews with key participants, From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry is a suspenseful, nuanced, and authoritative portrait of a pivotal moment in civil rights history, and a man who became a symbol against hatred and racism.---from the publisher

384 pages                                     978-1324002871                                Ages 13-18

Keywords: crime, Asian American community, prejudice, racism, law, social issues, social conditions, social activists, equality, justice, diversity, diverse books, narrative nonfiction, civil rights, 13 year old, 14 year old, 15 year old, Social Studies Curriculum, American history, violence, civil rights and human rights for young adults, books about prejudice for teens and young adults, human rights

*********

From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement by Paula Yoo is an award-winning non-fiction, young adult book that looks deeply at the people and circumstances that launched activism for Asian-Americans. Yoo uses primary sources and interviews from the 1980s to the present-day hate crimes against Asian-Americans due to the Coronavirus pandemic to put the whole plight of Asian-Americans in context. This is a valuable book for U.S. History classes, social justice and law classes, as well as for teens and adults who want to learn more about other civil rights movements aside from the ones for Black people and perhaps the LGBTQIA+ communities.

Detroit in 1982 was full of tension. Tension between Asian-Americans and those in the automobile industry. When a Chinese-American man, Vincent Chin, was brutally killed by two white men and the sentence was only probation and a $3000 fine, the Asian-American community organized to protest against this injustice. Chin's wrongful death was the first case brought against someone's civil rights being violated. The prosecutors retried the defendants claiming that their crime was racially motivated and that violated Chin's civil rights that were protected under the law. What ensued was a years-long battle in and out of the courts with multiple law enforcement, attorneys, witnesses, and national figures for justice being pulled back in to find closure on the case.

What stood out to me was how ordinary, everyday people got involved in the movement. For example, Mable Lim, an elderly woman who drove around Detroit with press releases shared that when she was younger she never stood up to the racism she encountered. "I accepted it, you're used to being excluded and treated differently." Many readers may relate to Lim and her perspective, even to this day. Marginalized groups benefit from learning about the past where coming together for a common cause brings strength to the community as a whole.

Another part of this story that was especially informative was how all-encompassing the movement became. At first it was Chinese-American activists that then grew to Japanese-Americans, then the NAACP and Pacific Islander groups joined. During a march an elderly Filipino man was asked why he joined and his reply encapsulated the feeling for justice, "If we don't stand together, we'll always be divided." This book teaches the origins of the term Asian American and Pacific Islander. Readers can better understand how these modern-day terms came about and how they are used today.

Finally, the true-crime aspect of the story is also a reason why I recommend it to young adults and adult readers. Yoo writes in a narrative style similar to true crime podcast scripts that provide details to the reader about the background of each person involved in the case. The courtroom scenes and judicial procedures are also notable because they were the cause of laws actually changing to ensure equitable sentencing procedures for future cases. Readers are also not lectured at in this book. For example, Yoo doesn't state her opinions about the motivation behind the killing. She lays out the evidence from both sides and that is what is also good to read. How she handles the effects on the defendants' lives brought a more balanced approach to this story.

After reading this book readers will undoubtedly want to do their own research on the case and the people involved. Yoo provides numerous sources for further reading, including the film, Who Killed Vincent Chin? Here is an interview from the Glendale Library that was done with Yoo:

From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement by Paula Yoo is an award-winning non-fiction, young adult book that looks deeply at the people and circumstances that launched activism for Asian-Americans. Yoo uses primary sources and interviews from the 1980s to the present-day hate crimes against Asian-Americans due to the Coronavirus pandemic to put the whole plight of Asian-Americans in context. This is a valuable book for U.S. History classes, social justice and law classes, as well as for teens and adults who want to learn more about other civil rights movements aside from the ones for Black people and perhaps the LGBTQIA+ communities.

Detroit in 1982 was full of tension. Tension between Asian-Americans and those in the automobile industry. When a Chinese-American man, Vincent Chin, was brutally killed by two white men and the sentence was only probation and a $3000 fine, the Asian-American community organized to protest against this injustice. Chin's wrongful death was the first case brought against someone's civil rights being violated. The prosecutors retried the defendants claiming that their crime was racially motivated and that violated Chin's civil rights that were protected under the law. What ensued was a years-long battle in and out of the courts with multiple law enforcement, attorneys, witnesses, and national figures for justice being pulled back in to find closure on the case.

What stood out to me was how ordinary, everyday people got involved in the movement. For example, Mable Lim, an elderly woman who drove around Detroit with press releases shared that when she was younger she never stood up to the racism she encountered. "I accepted it, you're used to being excluded and treated differently." Many readers may relate to Lim and her perspective, even to this day. Marginalized groups benefit from learning about the past where coming together for a common cause brings strength to the community as a whole.

Another part of this story that was especially informative was how all-encompassing the movement became. At first it was Chinese-American activists that then grew to Japanese-Americans, then the NAACP and Pacific Islander groups joined. During a march an elderly Filipino man was asked why he joined and his reply encapsulated the feeling for justice, "If we don't stand together, we'll always be divided." This book teaches the origins of the term Asian American and Pacific Islander. Readers can better understand how these modern-day terms came about and how they are used today.

Finally, the true-crime aspect of the story is also a reason why I recommend it to young adults and adult readers. Yoo writes in a narrative style similar to true crime podcast scripts that provide details to the reader about the background of each person involved in the case. The courtroom scenes and judicial procedures are also notable because they were the cause of laws actually changing to ensure equitable sentencing procedures for future cases. Readers are also not lectured at in this book. For example, Yoo doesn't state her opinions about the motivation behind the killing. She lays out the evidence from both sides and that is what is also good to read. How she handles the effects on the defendants' lives brought a more balanced approach to this story.

Recommended by: F. Fallon Farokh, Library Media Specialist, Kansas USA

See more of her recommendations: https://thestoryspectator.blogspot.com/2022/02/from-whisper-to-rallying-cry-asian.html

User reviews

Have you read this book? We'd love to hear what you think. Click the button below to write your own review!