Hapa Girl

A Memoir


In the mid-1960s, Winberg Chai, a young academic and the son of Chinese immigrants, married an Irish-American artist. In Hapa Girl ("hapa" is Hawaiian for "mixed") their daughter tells the story of this loving family as they moved from Southern California to New York to a South Dakota farm by the 1980s. In their new Midwestern home, the family finds itself the object of unwelcome attention, which swiftly escalates to violence. The Chais are suddenly socially isolated and barely able to cope with the tension that arises from daily incidents of racial animosity, including random acts of cruelty.

May-lee Chai's memoir ends in China, where she arrives just in time to witness a riot and demonstrations. Here she realizes that the rural Americans' "fears of change, of economic uncertainty, of racial anxiety, of the unknowable future compared to the known past were the same as China's. And I realized finally that it had not been my fault."

  • Temple University Press; March 2007
  • ISBN 9781592136179
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Hapa Girl
  • Author: May-lee Chai
  • Imprint: Temple University Press

In The Press

"A tour-de-force sojourn into a never-before-told zone of small town American bigotry. Hapa Girl is consistently stylish, permanently courageous, bitingly tragic, but always rationally detached with a Marx Brothers' wit. This is May-lee Chai's best comment yet about America." —Anthony B. Chan, author of Perpetually Cool: The Many Lives of Anna May Wong

About The Author

May-lee Chai is the author of five books, My Lucky Face, The Girl from Purple Mountain (co-authored with Winberg Chai) and Glamorous Asians: Short Stories & Essays, and recipient of an NEA Grant in Literature.