From A Whisper To A Rallying Cry

(13 customer reviews)

The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement

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.

 

April 20, 2021 978-1-324-00287-1 384 pages 13-18 years 8 and up Norton Young Readers (W.W. Norton & Co.)

America in 1982: Japanese car companies are on the rise and believed to be putting U.S. autoworkers out of their jobs. Anti–Asian American sentiment simmers, especially in Detroit. A bar fight turns fatal, leaving a Chinese American man, Vincent Chin, beaten to death at the hands of two white men, autoworker Ronald Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz.

Paula Yoo has crafted 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. The protests that followed led to a federal civil rights trial—the first involving a crime against an Asian American—and galvanized what came to be known as the Asian American movement.

Extensively researched from court transcripts, contemporary news accounts, and in-person interviews with key participants, From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry is 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.

PRAISE FOR FROM A WHISPER TO A RALLYING CRY

BLURBS
“A vivid, heartbreaking account of one of the most important moments in Asian American history. I couldn’t put it down.” Gene Luen Yang, Author of National Book Award Finalist AMERICAN BORN CHINESE.

“A tremendous feat of both research and writing — and a major contribution to our inspiring and infuriating American story.” Steve Sheinkin, Author of National Book Award Finalist BOMB.

“The story of Vincent Chin’s murder will grab you and not let go, even long after you’ve read the last page. Lisa Yee, Author of National Book Award Finalist MAIZY CHEN’S LAST CHANCE

AWARDS

2021 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD: YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE LONGLIST
2021 BOSTON GLOBE-HORN BOOK AWARD FOR NONFICTION WINNER
2021 JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD GOLD STANDARD
2022 LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE: YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE FINALIST
2022 YALSA AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS HONOR BOOK
2022 MICHIGAN NOTABLE BOOKS WINNER
2022 CHINESE AMERICAN LIBRARIANS ASSOCIATION: BEST BOOK AWARD WINNER
2022 NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION (NEA): “READ ACROSS AMERICA” YA BOOK
2022 CHILDREN’S LITERATURE COUNCIL OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA:
PEGGY MILLER AWARD FOR YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE

BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR (2021)
2021 TIME MAGAZINE: TEN BEST YA & CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF THE YEAR
2021 THE WASHINGTON POST: BEST CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF THE YEAR
2021 NPR: BOOKS WE LOVE – BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
2021 PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
2021 KIRKUS REVIEWS: BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
2021 HORN BOOK: FANFARE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
2021 SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
2021 BOOKLIST: BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
2021 BOOKLIST EDITORS’ CHOICE: TOP OF THE LIST WINNER IN YOUTH NONFICTION
2021 AMAZON EDITORS’ PICK FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOKS
2021 NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY: BEST BOOKS FOR TEENS
2021 CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY: BEST TEEN NONFICTION

NATIONAL COVERAGE

CNN
NPR
NBC NEWS
FOX NEWS
THE TODAY SHOW
GOOD MORNING AMERICA
PBS
TIME MAGAZINE
THE NEW YORK TIMES
THE WASHINGTON POST
BOSTON GLOBE
DETROIT NEWS
SACRAMENTO BEE
JADE MAGAZINE
ASIAN AMERICAN NEWS
MEDIUM

13 reviews for From A Whisper To A Rallying Cry

  1. KIRKUS REVIEWS STARRED REVIEW

    An accessible and compelling account of a tragedy that resonates through the decades. This clear and lucid account, based on in-depth research, superlatively conveys the context and significance of the events. The conflicting accounts and explanations are presented evenhandedly, offering readers the opportunity to weigh the evidence and draw their own conclusions. A timely afterword discusses anti-Asian racist rhetoric and violence during the Covid-19 pandemic. An accessible and compelling account of a tragedy that resonates through the decades.

  2. BOOKLISTS STARRED REVIEW

    Yoo dives into this story, giving important historical context to the anti-Asian sentiments of the time while anchoring it in the experiences of those closest to Chin, most notably his mother, Lily. Yet, for all the personal touches, Yoo remains admirably objective in how she relays the various court cases that arose from Chin’s murder, as well as their outcomes. She does not sanitize nor play up the story’s more salacious details—a strip club, drinking, swearing, violence—and these things never overshadow the real issue on trial: Was Vincent Chin’s murder a hate crime? In a compelling afterword, Yoo discusses the resurgence of anti-Asian attitudes and rhetoric in connection to COVID-19, reinforcing the book’s through line that Chin mustn’t be forgotten. Supported by robust source notes, news clippings, and photos.

  3. TIME MAGAZINE

    Blending together court transcripts, interviews and more, Paula Yoo revisits this horrific killing and the trial that followed. From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry, written for young readers, is a bruising account of the aftermath of Chin’s death, from the outrage it sparked over hate crimes and racism to the protests that shaped the Asian American movement.

  4. SACRAMENTO BEE

    When Paula Yoo set out to write a book about Vincent Chin years ago, she had no idea just how timely his story would become, nor could she predict that her book would be published amid a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes around the country…. This is history that is rarely taught or talked about. It’s a form of historical erasure that’s contributed to ongoing stereotypes… as well as perceptions that anti-Asian racism doesn’t exist. There has never been a book solely dedicated to exploring Chin’s life and legacy until now. Written for a young adult audience, Yoo’s book blends court records, interviews, devastating photographs and newspaper clippings to revisit the years of shockwaves Chin’s death made and how he became an enduring symbol of AAPI resistance. Some of the interviews in Yoo’s book are with the trial’s key case witnesses, who spoke publicly for the first time. It’s a bruising recount of painful history… but it’s also an uplifting reminder of the Asian American community’s power. For that, this book is deeply necessary medicine.

  5. NEW YORK TIMES

    In 1982, Vincent Chin was celebrating his bachelor party at a bar when an argument with two white men turned fatal. Chin’s death and the light criminal sentences his killers received incited national protests and a federal trial. Yoo’s comprehensive account sheds new light on the tragedy and its legacy.

  6. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL STARRED REVIEW

    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 timeline, 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.

  7. HORN BOOK STARRED REVIEW

    In this extensively researched 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 married; 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 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 with 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 afterword observes how anti-Asian discrimination and violence in America continue today with COVID-19–related attacks and racial profiling, but Yoo reminds readers of Chin’s legacy “to fight back against hate.”

  8. SHELF AWARENESS

    Vincent Chin’s final words – “It’s not fair” – inspired Paula Yoo’s impressively thorough From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement. Yoo opens her extensive examination with an unexpected new voice: Jarod Lew, who, 30 years after Vincent’s murder, learns his mother was Vincent’s fiancée, Vikki Wong. Jarod’s personal discovery is Yoo’s framing narrative for the book; his journey becomes an ingenious reminder to all readers–just as Jarod must understand his history so, too, does each new generation. As a former Detroit News reporter and TV writer/producer, Yoo initially considered making a film about Vincent Chin. But the spikes in anti-Asian violence after Trump became president convinced her to transform her celluloid intentions onto the page. From a Whisper is arguably the most comprehensive overview of the gruesome events and the aftermath of trials, protests, convictions, reversals and civil suits, and is enhanced with photos, newspaper clippings and significant backmatter, including a timeline, endnotes and sources. Yoo is determined: “not knowing” is no longer an option. Paula Yoo impressively educates a new generation as to why Vincent Chin’s 1982 murder and its civil rights-changing aftermath matters now more than ever.

  9. BOOK RIOT

    Essential reading. Resonant and important. Teens will love how it ties together true crime and social justice.

  10. BOSTON GLOBE

    Knowledge about Asian American history is needed now more than ever, but where to start? This nonfiction book is heavily researched but written in an engaging, even suspenseful, way, and it will make many readers question what they think they know about anti-Asian hate and racism.

  11. COOPERATIVE CHILDREN’S BOOK CENTER

    This riveting account of the murder of Chinese American Vincent Chin in Detroit in 1982 and the ripple effects of its impact provides an in-depth look at events surrounding the brutal attack on Chin and the subsequent response of police, the justice system, and, above all, members of the Chinese American and larger Asian American community in Detroit. This thoroughly researched and documented work allows individual stories and personalities, including Vincent Chin’s, to emerge. It also lets the facts, including conflicting accounts that were disputed, speak for themselves. An afterword places this story within the context of the pandemic and surging hate crimes against Asian Americans in a work that invites readers to think critically about racism then, and now.

  12. WASHINGTON POST

    Looking back at the 1982 killing of 27-year-old Vincent Chin near Detroit, this book shows how it affected his family, his community and the American legal system. Paula Yoo’s detailed and compassionate account reveals a frustrating search for justice from many perspectives, including Chin’s mother, his friends, as well as a lawyer and a judge who admit to mistakes.

  13. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY STARRED REVIEW

    Through in-person interviews, court transcripts, and present-day accounts, Yoo’s YA nonfiction debut exhaustively details Chin’s murder and carefully considers its resulting impact. Eyewitness accounts provide clarity, and detailed chronicling of the trials elicits justified frustration on the final verdict. In six well-structured parts, suspenseful narration illuminates Chin’s personal life, his gruesome death, the trials’ obstacles, and Chin’s legacy; well-integrated news clippings and emotive photographs imbue events with a hard-hitting real-time feel. This resonant, painstakingly recreated historical account features a timely afterword spotlighting the rise in anti-AAPI violence amid the Covid-19 pandemic, drawing parallels between this haunting account of a 40-year-old crime and present-day atrocities.

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