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



by
Paula Yoo

Edition
Hardcover edition
Publisher
61
Imprint
Norton Young Readers
ISBN
9781324002871

Awards and Honors
2021 Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Award Winner
POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
Language: Racial or Ethnic Epithet/Slur , Discrimination: Racial Insensitivity/Racism , Violence: Graphic Descriptions , Violence: Strong Violence , Language: Strong Language , Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: Reference or Discussion , Sexual Content: Strong Sexual Content/Themes
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JLG Category

History High

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 American autoworkers out of their jobs. Anti–Asian American sentiments simmer, especially in Detroit. A bar fight turns fatal, leaving Vincent Chin—a Chinese American man—beaten to death at the hands of two white men, autoworker Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz.

From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry is 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 in the Asian American community. This outrage galvanized the Asian American movement and paved the way for a new federal civil rights trial of the case. Extensively researched from court transcripts and interviews with key case witnesses—many speaking for the first time—Yoo has crafted 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.Time line. Notes. Sources. Index. Black-and-white photographs. 

POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
Language: Racial or Ethnic Epithet/Slur , Discrimination: Racial Insensitivity/Racism , Violence: Graphic Descriptions , Violence: Strong Violence , Language: Strong Language , Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: Reference or Discussion , Sexual Content: Strong Sexual Content/Themes

Details

Format

Print

Page Count

352

Trim Size

9" x 6"

Dewey

305.895

AR

0: points 0

Genre

Nonfic

Scholastic Reading Counts

0

JLG Release

Jun 2021

Book Genres

Autobiography/Biography

Topics

Vincent Chin (1955–1982). Asian Americans. Civil rights. Murder victims. US justice system. Prejudice and racism. 

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Praise & Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up–This narrative nonfiction title chronicles the brutal 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, which led to the first federal civil rights case involving an Asian American. While celebrating his bachelor party at a Detroit nightclub, Chin, who was Chinese American, became involved in a fight with two white autoworkers, Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz. The two men later cornered Chin at a McDonald’s and beat him to death with a baseball bat. Ebens and Nitz received a reduced charge of manslaughter and were sentenced to a mere three years probation and a $3,000 fine. The Asian American community was outraged at this unjust punishment, perceived to be a manifestation of anti-Asian racism fueled by anger directed at the Japanese car industry. Readers will be riveted by the first-person accounts from multiple points of view, including Chin’s family and friends, lawyers, defendants, and eyewitnesses. In fact, the book reads almost like a TV crime drama, utilizing flashbacks and culminating in a series of chapters depicting each key witness’s testimony. The book includes black-and-white primary photos and newspaper articles as well as a time line, extensive endnotes, and a list of archive sources. As the author reflects in her afterward, Chin’s story is an important parallel to today’s societal strife mirrored in the rise in racism and violence against Asian Americans who have been unfairly blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers interested in social justice nonfiction such as Chris Crowe’s Getting Away with Murder and Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy.–Maile Steimer, Jones M.S., Buford, GA

Horn Book

Who was Vincent Chin? The brutal 1982 killing of the young Chinese American in Detroit by two white men occurred during the U.S.-Japan auto trade wars, a time when anti-Asian hate ran high. Outrage over the killers’ sentencing—a $3,000 fine and probation—mobilized Asian Americans into protesting. The subsequent 1984 federal civil rights trial sparked reforms in victims’ rights and hate-crime reporting. In this extensively research account—based on news articles (many reproduced here), court records, documentary films, and her own interviews—Yoo skillfully retells the life story of Vincent Chin, an engineering draftsman who was about to get marries; his mother, Lily Chin; and everyone else involved, including the killers, witnesses, police, attorneys, judges, family friends, and community members. Yoo reconstructs the night of the June 19th when Chin and his friends went to a strip club for his bachelor party and got into a fight with autoworker Ronald Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz, ending in Chin’s fatal beating outside a McDonald’s restaurant. The narrative follows the aftermath, from the federal trial up to the present day, with updates on the lives of Ebens and others. An afterward observes how anti-Asian discrimination and violence in America continues today with COVID-19-releated attacks and racial profiling, but Yoo reminds readers of Chin’s legacy “to fight back against hate.” Back matter includes a detailed timeline, meticulous source notes, and an index (unseen). MICHELLE LEE

Praise & Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up–This narrative nonfiction title chronicles the brutal 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, which led to the first federal civil rights case involving an Asian American. While celebrating his bachelor party at a Detroit nightclub, Chin, who was Chinese American, became involved in a fight with two white autoworkers, Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz. The two men later cornered Chin at a McDonald’s and beat him to death with a baseball bat. Ebens and Nitz received a reduced charge of manslaughter and were sentenced to a mere three years probation and a $3,000 fine. The Asian American community was outraged at this unjust punishment, perceived to be a manifestation of anti-Asian racism fueled by anger directed at the Japanese car industry. Readers will be riveted by the first-person accounts from multiple points of view, including Chin’s family and friends, lawyers, defendants, and eyewitnesses. In fact, the book reads almost like a TV crime drama, utilizing flashbacks and culminating in a series of chapters depicting each key witness’s testimony. The book includes black-and-white primary photos and newspaper articles as well as a time line, extensive endnotes, and a list of archive sources. As the author reflects in her afterward, Chin’s story is an important parallel to today’s societal strife mirrored in the rise in racism and violence against Asian Americans who have been unfairly blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers interested in social justice nonfiction such as Chris Crowe’s Getting Away with Murder and Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy.–Maile Steimer, Jones M.S., Buford, GA

Horn Book

Who was Vincent Chin? The brutal 1982 killing of the young Chinese American in Detroit by two white men occurred during the U.S.-Japan auto trade wars, a time when anti-Asian hate ran high. Outrage over the killers’ sentencing—a $3,000 fine and probation—mobilized Asian Americans into protesting. The subsequent 1984 federal civil rights trial sparked reforms in victims’ rights and hate-crime reporting. In this extensively research account—based on news articles (many reproduced here), court records, documentary films, and her own interviews—Yoo skillfully retells the life story of Vincent Chin, an engineering draftsman who was about to get marries; his mother, Lily Chin; and everyone else involved, including the killers, witnesses, police, attorneys, judges, family friends, and community members. Yoo reconstructs the night of the June 19th when Chin and his friends went to a strip club for his bachelor party and got into a fight with autoworker Ronald Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz, ending in Chin’s fatal beating outside a McDonald’s restaurant. The narrative follows the aftermath, from the federal trial up to the present day, with updates on the lives of Ebens and others. An afterward observes how anti-Asian discrimination and violence in America continues today with COVID-19-releated attacks and racial profiling, but Yoo reminds readers of Chin’s legacy “to fight back against hate.” Back matter includes a detailed timeline, meticulous source notes, and an index (unseen). MICHELLE LEE

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