From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial That Galvanized the Asian American Movement” by Paula Yoo

Review by Laura Frantz, collection development librarian

Life was looking pretty good for Vincent Chin. He was working as a draftsman at an engineering firm during the day and as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant at night. He was getting ready to marry girlfriend Vicki Wong. He met up with friends right before the wedding for “one last night out.” What started out as an impromptu bachelor party ultimately turned deadly as the Chinese American was killed by two white men after a bar fight. 

This tragedy unfolded in Detroit during the early 1980s as Japanese car makers were gaining in popularity, while American autoworkers were losing their jobs. The Vincent Chin case amplified the hostility the Asian American community was experiencing. And the aftermath of the trial with its lenient sentencing for the killers sparked outrage and fueled a movement for justice in the Asian American community.

Author Paula Yoo presents a riveting account of the case by examining court transcripts, newspaper coverage, and witness statements. But it is the first-hand accounts from friends, families, and others involved in the case that will capture readers and will give them much to reflect upon. The research Yoo put into this book is painstakingly evident and, while it is geared to a teen audience, adults will be equally drawn into the story. This is one that will resonate with many as the struggle for social justice continues.