It’s a true story about two brothers who were figuratively and literally joined together forever. Chang and Eng Bunker were Siamese Twins who were brought to America from their native China in the 1800’s, and had to face everything from fear, and name calling to racism. But, the two brothers linked at the base of their chests eventually capitalized on the way they were born to become businessmen, American citizens, and ironically slaveowners. A South Coast author tells their story in a new book released this week.
U-C Santa Barbara English Professor Yunte Huang has written a new book about the twins being released this week, called “Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History.”
Huang says the boat captain who brought the brothers to the United States in 1829 called them curiosities. They weren’t listed as passengers on the ship, perhaps he didn’t consider them to be human, but perhaps because he was trying to keep them a secret so he could exploit them when they arrived in America.
At first, they were treated poorly. But, Huang says the twins were big hits, and in 1832 saw the opportunity to strike out on their own.
The UCSB professor is a Guggenheim Fellow who was the author of Charlie Chan, and acclaimed book about the groundbreaking actor. That book won literary acclaim, including the Edgar Award, and it was a National Book Club finalist. Huang says that book set the stage for “Inseparable.”
The twins settled in North Carolina, buying a huge farm, and taken the last names of Bunker, where they married sisters. Huang says one of the great contradictions of their story is after sometimes being treated a subhuman, and as the targets of racism, they would become slave owners, and supporters of the Confederacy.
Two of their sons fought for the Confederates, and they were both wounded in action. Huang says part of their legacy continues to this day. There are an estimated 1500 descendants of the duo now living in the United States.