In the early 20th century, most Chinese immigrants coming to the U.S. were detained at the angel island immigration station in San Francisco bay. There, they were subject to physical exams, interrogations and long detentions aimed at upholding the exclusion laws that kept Chinese out of the country. During the 30 year period from 1910-1940, many detainees recorded their anger, frustrations, hopes and despair in traditional Tang-style poetry written and carved on walls of the detention center.
Both of Jeffrey Leong’s parents were detainees on Angel Island. Growing up, he heard a lot about what it was like for Chinese travelling to the US during the exclusion period. With the aid of an online dictionary to help in translation, as well as compensate for his inability to read Chinese characters, Jeffrey translated 90 angel island wall poems from Chinese to English. This allowed a wider audience to read and understand this national literary legacy.