In this mind boggling story of Siamese twins, truth can be stranger than fiction. Yunte Huang's colorful writing exquisitely depicts the lives of Chang and Eng, as well as the 19th century America they were brought to as a showcase of freakish curiosity. Taken advantage of and treated as property, the twins eventually freed themselves only to become slave owners and marry sisters (!) in North Carolina. Huang brilliantly and thoughtfully dissects how the nation shaped the twins' lives and where they fit in its history. Despite its Siamese beginnings, this story is quintessentially American and maintains its relevance today.— From Carl
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.