Jade Snow Wong (1922-2006) was significant not just as a celebrated ceramics and enamels artist but also as one of the first writers on the 20 th -century Chinese American experience. The theme of “working with your hands” resonated throughout her life: she saw her immigrant parents laboring with their hands in their garment factory; she cooked and cleaned as a maid to pay for her college education; she wrote her best-selling memoirs by hand and on the typewriter; she personally handled matters (objects and tours) in her import/export and travel businesses; and, of course, she worked with her hands as a ceramics and enamels artist. This “hands-on” approach in all of her endeavors enabled Wong to create a strong sense of identity that withstood the expectations and judgments she faced as an Asian woman. The acclaim she received for her art and writing led the U.S. State Department to ask her to serve as a cultural ambassador speaking to audiences throughout Asia. Thus, Jade Snow Wong is worth studying not just for her work in the arts, but for the many ways she succeeded in sharing her perspective with the world.
In the lessons below, teachers and students have the opportunity to explore the following:
- Wong’s artistic style and the influences on her work
- The ceramics- and enamels-making process
- Wong’s memoirs and her family’s immigrant experience, including the conflicting age, race, and gender-related values that shaped her
- The way Wong’s story was interpreted and dramatized for a short film (looking at the film itself as a work of art/historical artifact)
- How Wong’s story might stir students’ thinking about their own identities and what it means to be “American.”