Gathering: A Coaching Book

Relationship: Im/migrant
 Coaching book of Lee Luen Kay, a then 17-year-old Chinese immigrant detained for three weeks at the Angel Island Immigration Station, 1926. Courtesy of Connie Young Yu.
Coaching book of Lee Luen Kay, a then 17-year-old Chinese immigrant detained for three weeks at the Angel Island Immigration Station, 1926. Courtesy of Connie Young Yu.

Lee Luen Kay arrived from China on the President Grant in 1931 with two brothers, each with a coaching book of their family’s history. He and his brothers had a legal right to immigrate as sons of a native-born U.S. citizen, but being born in China, were suspected, like all Chinese, of being illegal aliens. Having a coaching book was critical to their passing interrogation by the Board of Inquiry on Angel Island. The book was written by Lee’s uncle who, in the last page, includes a note on his demeanor during interrogation: to look unafraid and answer with confidence.

Lee Luen Kay was the son of Lee Yoke Suey (1878–1923), a prominent businessman and an agent for Levi Strauss in China. Lee Yoke Suey’s father, Lee Wong Sang came to the U.S. in 1866 as a 19 year old and worked on the Central Pacific building the Transcontinental Railroad. Lee had every reason to be fearful of detention on Angel Island. His mother, Mrs. Lee Yoke Suey was detained on Angel Island for over 15 months in 1924–25 and was nearly deported. Only after a prolonged legal battle was she finally admitted by decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Fortunately Lee Luen Kay was detained for only a few weeks on Angel Island, while waiting to be called before the Board of Inquiry for his case to be heard. He passed the interrogation and was admitted to the U.S. He joined his family in San Francisco and acquired a new name: Albert Lee. After repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Law in 1943, he was naturalized as a U.S. citizen.

This object was featured in the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)'s exhibit, "Gathering: Collecting and Documenting Chinese American History," October 17, 2019 - March 22, 2020.

Place(s): San Francisco, CA
Year: 1926

– Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

Relationship:  Im/migrant Im/migrant