Inseparable : The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History
by Yunte Huang


Overview - Nearly a decade after his triumphant Charlie Chan biography, Yunte Huang returns with this long-awaited portrait of Chang and Eng Bunker (1811-1874), twins conjoined at the sternum by a band of cartilage and a fused liver, who were "discovered" in Siam by a British merchant in 1824.  Read more...

 
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More About Inseparable by Yunte Huang
 
 
 
Overview
Nearly a decade after his triumphant Charlie Chan biography, Yunte Huang returns with this long-awaited portrait of Chang and Eng Bunker (1811-1874), twins conjoined at the sternum by a band of cartilage and a fused liver, who were "discovered" in Siam by a British merchant in 1824. Bringing an Asian American perspective to this almost implausible story, Huang depicts the twins, arriving in Boston in 1829, first as museum exhibits but later as financially savvy showmen who gained their freedom and traveled the backroads of rural America to bring "entertainment" to the Jacksonian mobs. Their rise from subhuman, freak-show celebrities to rich southern gentry; their marriage to two white sisters, resulting in twenty-one children; and their owning of slaves, is here not just another sensational biography but a Hawthorne-like excavation of America's historical penchant for finding feast in the abnormal, for tyrannizing the "other"--a tradition that, as Huang reveals, becomes inseparable from American history itself.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780871404473
  • ISBN-10: 0871404478
  • Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Publish Date: April 2018
  • Page Count: 416
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Cultural, Ethnic & Regional - Asian & Asian American
Books > Social Science > Ethnic Studies - Asian American Studies
Books > History > United States - 19th Century

 
BookPage Reviews

Joined at the hip

As conjoined twins, Chang and Eng Bunker could easily have chosen to live as recluses, away from the public’s gawking stares. But instead, they traveled the world as entertainers. In Inseparable, Chinese-American professor Yunte Huang (Charlie Chan) faithfully chronicles their incredible story.

Born in Siam in 1811, Chang and Eng Bunker were the namesakes for the term “Siamese twins.” In their late teens, they were discovered by an enterprising Scotsman who convinced them to join him on an exhibition tour of Europe and America. The 19th century was a time when “curious freaks” were put on display. As noted by Huang, these carnival acts were “indubitably the birthplace of American mass entertainment.”

But the twins became adept and engaging performers. Financially savvy and frugal, they were able to save their earnings and settle in North Carolina, where they married two sisters and fathered a total of 21 children. This specific factor has long been a curiosity, and Huang surmises the twins’ lovemaking logistics and technique, referencing previous biographies, medical commentary and even the autopsy notes in which the lead doctor asked the widows “the most sensitive question about their sex life.”

Throughout the book, Huang provides historical perspective by noting other global events of the time, such as a slave uprising in New Orleans the year the twins were born and the political upheaval in 1830s America when the twins were taking their show on the road. Many of the subjects are timely today, such as the racial injustices the twins faced as Asian immigrants, often doubly worse for them due to their conjoined state.

As Huang points out, “[T]o them, being human meant being more than one, inseparable from the other—never alone in life, death, happiness, pain, procreation, or even answering the call of nature.” Inseparable is an engaging look at the lives of two singular people.

 

This article was originally published in the April 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews