Noted author will speak about his newly-published biography on the Bunker twins.
The Museum of Ventura County will present an evening with noted author and acclaimed biographer Yunte Huang. He will be reading from, discussing and signing his book, “INSEPARABLE: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History” on May 24 at Museum of Ventura County, 100 E. Main Street, Ventura.
The evening will begin at 6 p.m. with cocktails at a no-host bar. Huang will speak starting at 6:30 p.m., followed by a discussion with KCLU’s Duncan Lively. Activities will conclude with a book signing. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the Museum. Admission to the event is free.
Huang, a Guggenheim Fellow and a professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, researched and wrote what has been called a “gripping account of the lives of the celebrated Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker [that] not only richly illuminates the past of P. T. Barnum and Mark Twain but also probes the racial and sexual politics of the present.”
The book details how the two men, the original Siamese twins, were “discovered” and subsequently exploited by an enterprising Scotsman named Robert Hunter during a visit to Thailand, which was then known as Siam. It tells of them leaving their family in early 1829 for what was supposed to be a “whirlwind tour” through Boston, London, New York, Philadelphia and New York.
The volume recounts how Chang and Eng rose from sideshow curiosity to Southern gentry during the early 19th century despite repressive laws in force at that time. It tells of how their quick wit and winning personalities endeared them to American audiences, fascinated by curiosities from exotic lands, which had initially been drawn in by their abnormality. It talks of how their unrivaled success quickened the birth of mass entertainment in America.
As an Asian-American, Huang brings a unique perspective to the lives of the Bunker twins. He notes that it may have been their differences that worked in their favor: they were neither one individual, nor quite two. As Asians, they were neither white nor non-white. In U.S. Census Bureau documents, they were deemed “honorary whites,” a designation that enabled them to join the ranks of the Southern gentry.
“We at the Museum are very excited to host this event. This book is beautifully written and extremely engaging. It fascinatingly details a story not many people are familiar with that has made its way into the heart of our collective lexicon,” said Elena Brokaw, Barbara Barnard Smith Executive Director of the Museum of Ventura County. For more information call 805-653-0323.