My mother filled me in at an early age about our false paper identity, and why the U. S. exclusion of Chinese was patently unfair, and that my father had no choice but to use a paper name. I was conflicted with this knowledge, a little anxious, but knew that the secret had to be kept. I never knew whether the Chinese kids I knew in San Francisco had a similar status or not.... none of them divulged this information nor did I think I should ask them... it was a pact of silence on this topic. Yet, I naively assumed some were, and furthermore, that their parents had told them the truth. Later, I was to discover that I was wrong since I met some Chinese whose parents never divulged that they were in fact 'paper sons'' to their children.... they either didn't trust them to keep the secret, felt shame, or didn't want to burden their children with the knowledge.
This topic is a sensitive one for older Chinese Americans since so many of them had parents, grandparents, and other relatives who entered the U.S. and Canada with this rather shady method. In research for my books, I discovered how widespread the use of this method was employed to gain entry, and one that Chinese rationalized as justifiable since the Chinese was the only ethnic group categorically excluded from entry to the U. S. from 1882-1943 (imposed in 1924 until 1947 in Canada after its earlier Head Tax failed to stem the tide). Many Chinese still fear the topic, having kept this dark secret for decades, with worries about deportation. Consequently, we can never know the full extent to which it was used, how many were detected and deported, and the extent of its harmful effects on those, and their families, who successfully gained entry. Although I am a Jung because that was my father's paper surname, I knew, even as a child, that I was really a Loo, but the situation created some confusion, to say the least. Unlike some Chinese who later 'claimed' their real name, I like many others did not feel the need.