book review: From A Whisper to A Rallying Cry

title: From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry
author: Paula Yoo
date: Norton Books for Young Readers; 2021
young adult non-fiction; Asian American

From a Whisper to A Rallying Cry by Paula Yoo documents the legacy of Vincent Chin, an ordinary guy, an adopted Chinese American son out celebrating in a night club a couple of days before his wedding in 1982. That evening, words were exchanged, tempers flared and Chin was murdered in the streets of Detroit.

This was during a time of heightened anti-Asian American sentiment in the city. Jobs in the automotive industry were centered in Detroit and these well paying, stable jobs began disappearing in the late 1970s. Some blamed foreign competition, particularly Japanese car makes for this, resulting in racist thoughts and actions directed at all Americans of East Asian descent.

Yoo uses her background in journalism to relate how the Asian American community coalesced around this incident of racism, something they’d not done previously. The book is an important historical document but it’s also an important example of how to write without hyperbole, innuendo and assumptions that are used to position readers and conflate the truth. Yoo’s unbiased account leaves space for young readers to fully examine this particular experience of systemic racism and to compare it to ways anti-Asian American sentiment persists today.