• Christopher Corbett
Mining The Frontier of Fable PDF Print E-mail

"Imagine 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller,' 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre' and 'Deadwood' hand-stitched together and given a novel slant as a mini-epic of Chinese immigrant life. That suggests the polyglot vitality of Baltimore writer Christopher Corbett's new nonfiction book, 'The Poker Bride.'

"With 'The Poker Bride,' Corbett cements his claim as an ace surveyor of America's borderland of fable."

Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun

The First Chinese to Gamble on the Wild West

China Daily, The Poker Bride

The Poker Bride paints a grim picture of the US faced by Chinese in the years leading up to the Exclusion Act, but in Corbett's thorough account of that world, he manages to document a humanity that white Americans often were blind to.

"The Chinese in the old days were remarkably resilient, patient and industrious," he writes. "Those are not clichs. The ghosts of the old Chinese - in a very real sense - haunt the American West, even today. We should never forget them."

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David Simon PDF Print E-mail

“With 'The Poker Bride,' Christopher Corbett has brought home a tale delicate and sad and not a little bit heroic, and in doing so he has rescued from oblivion an extraordinary chapter of the immigrant experience in America. With this work and his earlier reconsideration of the Pony Express, "Orphans Preferred," Corbett has established himself as a fresh and thoughtful voice in the historical realm of the American West.”

David Simon, “The Wire”

Of Gold and Bondage PDF Print E-mail

"Corbett's accomplishment in pulling this dark history into a popular narrative is all the more impressive when you consider the difficulty of reporting on a foreign population that lived mainly outside the reach of census takers and journalists . . . on the whole, Corbett handles a great deal of sordid material with sensitivity. In restoring to the Poker Bride a more honest and complete history, Corbett undoes generations of self-serving mythology. And that may be Polly Bemis's real stroke of luck."

Dominique Browning, The New York Times Book Review

Library Journal PDF Print E-mail

In the 19th-century American West, for a white man to marry a Chinese woman was almost unheard of; to have won her in a poker game was also unusual. Yet here Corbett (who teaches journalism at UMBC) tells how the Chinese concubine Polly became the bride of Charles Bemis, a saloon keeper who took her to his remote Idaho gold-mining community. Around this story, Corbett gracefully weaves the history of the Chinese in the 19th-century American West, from the arrival of the first "celestials," as they were known, through the anti-Chinese agitation at century’s end. He pays particular attention to the importation of girls from southern China and tells just how Polly’s story ultimately became known to the world. VERDICT Corbett’s intriguing book will appeal to readers interested in the narrative history of the American West and tales of the mining camps. Corbett provides a sound bibliography and refers to specific sources within his narrative, though serious students will prefer works with full editorial apparatus, such as Gunther Barth’s Bitter Strength: A History of the Chinese in the United States, 1850–1870. Corbett’s accomplished book will engage history buffs and general readers alike.”

Library Journal

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