Significant aspects of these men’s experience are necessarily subject to conjecture or have to be reconstructed. Despite this daunting impediment, Mr. Chang has accomplished the seemingly impossible. He has researched obscure American newspaper accounts. He has drawn on Central Pacific correspondence and financial records and made extrapolations from accounts of other contemporaneous Chinese immigrants. He has even evaluated archeological evidence. And he has written a remarkably rich, human and compelling story of the railroad Chinese ... In gripping prose, Mr. Chang evokes the challenges the Chinese railroad workers confronted ... Mr. Chang puts readers squarely into the shoes of the Chinese workers ... That book is clearly designed for an academic audience; fortunately, in Ghosts of Gold Mountain, Mr. Chang has mined expertly the extant material on the subject.
As a writer, Chang faced his own impossible task. To date, historians have not found a single diary or letter written by one of the Railroad Chinese. Despite this dearth, Chang’s account of their experiences is authoritative and engaging ... If Chang’s exhaustive fact-finding sometimes saps his momentum...his methodology just as often lends the book a compelling sense of mystery. Reading Chang’s analysis of period photographs, for instance, is like watching a master detective work a crime scene. His investigations are often surprisingly moving, too ... Chang’s book is a necessary corrective to delusions about our past, and a model for how historians might 'give voice to the voiceless.'
... necessary ... Though no firsthand accounts of the Railroad Chinese have survived the decades since, Chang artfully reconstructs the lives of these industrious migrants ... Through his careful scholarship, Chang serves as a passionate advocate for Chinese workers on the Central Pacific Railroad who were not wanted, but were needed. He explores workers’ strikes, and he shows how the Railroad Chinese found their agency as they worked west to east and recognized their own contributions to our modern American landscape. With this text, Chang sheds light on a forgotten history and honors the lives of the Railroad Chinese and their vital contributions to the nation.