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

Norton. Apr. 2021. 384p. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781324002871.
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.

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