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[LITERATURE] Wayne Hung Wong (Mar Ying Wing) - Author of "American Paper Son"

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  • madchinaman
    Wayne Wong, 83, has lived the American dream BY BECCY TANNER The Wichita Eagle Wayne Hung Wong was a paper son. At the turn of the 20th century, when U.S.
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 16, 2006
      Wayne Wong, 83, has lived 'the American dream'
      BY BECCY TANNER
      The Wichita Eagle


      Wayne Hung Wong was a "paper son." At the turn of the 20th century,
      when U.S. laws prevented Chinese immigrants from entering the
      country legally, some came illegally with false papers identifying
      them as sons of Americans.

      That is how Wong came to Wichita in 1935.

      He was 13.

      In the seven decades since then, he has fought in World War II as a
      decorated soldier, earned his U.S. citizenship, raised four
      children, worked as a restaurant and real estate entrepreneur, and,
      now, become an author.

      "He is a person who has lived and loved the American dream," said
      Don Ablah, Wong's friend and business associate for the past 40
      years. "He is very astute financially and politically. He is a
      feeling, thinking... principled man."

      Tonight, Wong, 83, will sign copies of his new book, "American Paper
      Son," at the Marcus Welcome Center on the Wichita State University
      campus.

      He wrote the book in part to share what life was like as a paper
      son; for the first three decades of his life in America, he says, he
      lived in fear that his secret would be discovered and he would be
      deported.

      But he also wanted to write of his good experiences as a Chinese-
      American in this country.

      "When I went into the military, I heard from other Chinese-
      Americans," Wong said. "They told me how much discrimination they
      went through in San Francisco and on the East Coast. Through all my
      life, I have met a lot of good people. All the way, they help."
      Journey begins

      His birth name was Mar Ying Wing. His story began in the Changlong
      village in southern China. His great-great-grandfather, Cheng Foo,
      was part of the 22nd generation of Mars, an honored family in China.
      During the 1920s, China was in economic turmoil. Wong's father, Mar
      Tung Jing, left for the United States three months after Wong was
      born, to be a cook in Wichita's Pan-American Cafe, owned by his
      cousin.

      In 1935, he paid for his son to immigrate to the United States.
      But the Chinese Exclusion Act forbade Chinese men from bringing
      their wives and families to the states. Chinese could still come to
      America if they could prove they were born here or were the son of a
      U.S. citizen.

      So, many Chinese boys, like Wong, became "paper sons." Their fathers
      paid "paper fathers" to bring their children to America. Part of the
      process included the children having to learn detailed information
      about their paper fathers to convince U.S. authorities of their
      legitimacy.

      In his book, Wong writes: "As I traveled across the wide Pacific, I
      was not afraid for the future; I knew my father was already here in
      Wichita, and so our basic needs -- making a living, finding a place
      to sleep, and having food to eat -- would be met."

      He memorized a 60-page book detailing his "paper village," he said.
      Once he arrived in the United States, immigration officials
      interrogated him at length.

      He passed the interrogation and was allowed to travel to Wichita.
      Serving in the Army

      As a teenage boy, Wong writes, his days were spent working in the
      restaurant and studying for school. He lived in a room above the Pan-
      American Cafe. He had little female nurturing.

      "There were no Chinese women in the city of Wichita at that time,"
      he writes. "Not until after World War II, when the Chinese veterans
      brought their wives to Wichita to start their families and raise
      children.... Until then the tiny Chinese community in Wichita was
      what we called a 'bachelor's society.' "

      But many other Wichitans befriended him -- a girl who stayed in from
      recess at school to help with his English; an electronics teacher
      who encouraged him to major in electronic engineering; fellow
      students who elected him vice president of his junior class.
      He enlisted in the Army on Nov. 6, 1942, and was assigned to the
      987th Signal Operations Company in Camp Crowder, Mo. The 987th was
      organized to provide communication services between American and
      Chinese troops.

      It was the Army's only Chinese-American unit; Wong served as its
      supply sergeant.

      He was honorably discharged on Dec. 21, 1945, and awarded the Bronze
      Star, the Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal, the China War Memorial
      Ribbon, the World War II Victory Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
      Marriage and business

      After World War II, Wong met the woman who would become his wife,
      Kim Suey, in Taishan and brought her to the United States. They
      returned to Wichita, where he continued working in restaurants and
      she raised their family.

      During the 1960s, the Wongs participated in the federal government's
      amnesty program for immigrants who came to this country under false
      pretense. He confessed to being a paper son.

      "To me, confessing had an obvious impact: My citizenship status
      would be jeopardized," Wong wrote. "Now, however, I had no choice --
      the 'game' was up.... I filled out a set of forms that queried
      my 'true' and 'paper' family roots as well as the current
      whereabouts of all family members, in turn forcing me to implicate
      other relatives."

      But because he had a solid record of service in the U.S. military,
      he was able to win his U.S. citizenship on Aug. 31, 1964.

      He and his wife founded a business called Wong Enterprises Inc.,
      owning and managing a string of restaurant and retail businesses
      such as Georgie Porgie's and Long John Silver's. They also invested
      in real estate.

      He established friendships with local businessmen.

      "He listened to everybody," Ablah said. "He learned the real estate
      business by osmosis.... He amassed a very good collection of real
      estate."

      Writing a book

      Josh Yearout, a Wichita State University student researcher, was
      eager to help Wong with his book.

      "He's done so many things and been part of so much history," Yearout
      said. "I don't think most Wichitans are aware of his story."

      In December 2004, Wong was among 18 World War II veterans honored by
      the Air Capital Chapter of the Noncommissioned Officers Association
      and presented a medal for their service in the war.

      Wong said that award just reaffirmed his affection for his community.
      "I have never met so many good people as the people in Wichita," he
      said.

      "American Paper Son," published by University of Illinois Press, can
      be purchased at the Wichita State bookstore and Borders.

      At tonight's book signing, Wong plans to announce a $15,000
      endowment for Wichita State's library. A portion of the book
      royalties will help fund the endowment, which will be used to buy
      Asian studies books.
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