Inseparable
Nearly a decade after his triumphant Charlie Chan biography,Yunte Huang returns with this long-awaitedportrait of Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–1874), twinsconjoined at the sternum by a band of cartilage and a fusedliver, who were “discovered” in Siam by a British merchant in1824. Bringing an Asian American perspective to this almostimplausible story, Huang depicts the twins, arriving in Bostonin 1829, first as museum exhibits but later as financially savvyshowmen who gained their freedom and traveled the backroadsof rural America to bring “entertainment” to the Jacksonianmobs. Their rise from subhuman, freak-show celebrities to richsouthern gentry; their marriage to two white sisters, resulting intwenty-one children; and their owning of slaves, is here not justanother sensational biography but a Hawthorne-like excavationof America’s historical penchant for finding feast in the abnormal,for tyrannizing the “other”—a tradition that, as Huangreveals, becomes inseparable from American history itself.

Inseparable Details

TitleInseparable
Author
ReleaseApr 3rd, 2018
PublisherLiveright
ISBN-139780871404473
Rating
GenreHistory, Biography, Nonfiction, Historical, North American Hi..., American History

Inseparable Review

  • Keith Chawgo
    January 1, 1970
    Inseparable is a biography about the original Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng Bunker. The story reminds me of the Elephant Man but Huang has lovingly researched his subject matter with an incredible thorough hand. The Bunker twins lived from 1811 to 1874. The story follows from their birth to their eventual death and their tour throughout America during this time. Lovingly told through emotional highs and lows, this is an incredible story that garners one to delve into their lives. Heartbreak, horr Inseparable is a biography about the original Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng Bunker. The story reminds me of the Elephant Man but Huang has lovingly researched his subject matter with an incredible thorough hand. The Bunker twins lived from 1811 to 1874. The story follows from their birth to their eventual death and their tour throughout America during this time. Lovingly told through emotional highs and lows, this is an incredible story that garners one to delve into their lives. Heartbreak, horror, comedy, darkness and light, all aspects of life are on show and it is a testament to this incredible pair. The book is very readable and I was so involved with finding out about the Bunker twins that I could not get enough. I was in awe of this incredible biography. Imagine life in the 1800’s, before acceptance and political correctness and being born with a genetic defect that stands out from the crowd. Huang is able to look at their lives and how they had made their mark on life. This is a phenomenal book and one that I urge many to read. Huang is top of his game when chronicling the lives of these two men. If you are looking for a biography that goes beyond just pointed facts, I urge to you to give this try just for the depth of the emotion alone sets this apart from so many biographies. This is a true winner.
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  • Christine
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways.I had never read an in-depth story about Chang and Eng Bunker, the original "Siamese Twins" and the impetus for the commonly used phrase. I had heard of them, of course, and seen things on The Mutter Museum in Philadelphia about their shared liver, but never actually read about them as people. This is a well-researched, in-depth, but not overwhelming look at their lives which includes insightful commentary about the world and the natio I received a free copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways.I had never read an in-depth story about Chang and Eng Bunker, the original "Siamese Twins" and the impetus for the commonly used phrase. I had heard of them, of course, and seen things on The Mutter Museum in Philadelphia about their shared liver, but never actually read about them as people. This is a well-researched, in-depth, but not overwhelming look at their lives which includes insightful commentary about the world and the nation in which they lived. Of particular interest, especially now, is the twins' transformation from slave-held to slave-holders and the way in which they likely saw themselves in the world versus the way the world saw them. Their twilight years as landed gentry in the South, particularly during the Civil War, were fascinating to read about. Huang's writing is engaging and interesting, and the wrap-up Epilogue comparing Mayberry (Mt. Airy North Carolina, where the twins lived those twilight years) to the real world of the 50's and 60's is an excellent cap on the entire tale. Highly recommend checking this book out when it's published.
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  • MAP
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway.Objectively, this is at least 4 star books. However, in terms of my personal enjoyment of it, 3 stars.This is truly a "the life and times of Chang and Eng" type of book, as opposed to a traditional biography. Although the book is centered on the brothers, much of the book focuses on the zeitgeist and context of the 19th century US that surrounded them. So an average chapter may have some information on say, the traveling route of the brothers, and the I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway.Objectively, this is at least 4 star books. However, in terms of my personal enjoyment of it, 3 stars.This is truly a "the life and times of Chang and Eng" type of book, as opposed to a traditional biography. Although the book is centered on the brothers, much of the book focuses on the zeitgeist and context of the 19th century US that surrounded them. So an average chapter may have some information on say, the traveling route of the brothers, and then branch off into other people who would have been also traveling along the same routes, or descriptions by various people about the conditions of the roads during that time, and that sort of thing. Mini-biographies of other noted people who either interacted with Chang and Eng or who would have been nearby or who simply expressed an interest in the brothers are scattered throughout (for example Mark Twain, PT Barnum, Edgar Allan Poe.)My main struggle with the book was that I enjoy biographies for the purposes of getting into the heads of the subjects of those biographies. Unfortunately, it appears Chang and Eng did not engage in much correspondence, and certainly did not appear to give candid interviews. Therefore, we ultimately get very little insight into the twins' personalities, likes/dislikes, etc. Much of the biographical content from the first 200 pages comes from financial ledgers - lists of where they went, how much they earned, and what they spent. So for me, the zeitgeist part always feels like padding when there's not enough biographical information to go around. (I know that "life and times" biographies are perfectly legitimate and a valid form of biography; it's just than whenever I encounter them hoping for a more traditional biography, my emotional reaction is to feel annoyed at the times to life ratio.)If you are someone who genuinely enjoys "life and times of" type biographies, then this is an incredibly well-written book. If you prefer more personal looks at the subjects, you may find this book wanting.
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  • Nalene
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advanced copy of this book courtesy of a Goodreads giveaway. If I could give it a 4.5, I would (only because I am very stingy with 5s). This is a well-written and impressively researched examination of the lives of the conjoined twins of Siam, Chang and Eng (Bunker). But it is about so much more than those brothers. It examines relevant ancillary issues and events in American culture and history preceding and during the Civil War and during the period of Reconstruction. In many way I received an advanced copy of this book courtesy of a Goodreads giveaway. If I could give it a 4.5, I would (only because I am very stingy with 5s). This is a well-written and impressively researched examination of the lives of the conjoined twins of Siam, Chang and Eng (Bunker). But it is about so much more than those brothers. It examines relevant ancillary issues and events in American culture and history preceding and during the Civil War and during the period of Reconstruction. In many ways, Huang makes it clear how the twins were made for "such a time as this," as their lives collided with the American "freak show" fascination, the rise (and fall) of P.T. Barnum, the phrenology trend in medicine, the Great Awakening, and--of course--the binary nature of class and race during the time of American slavery. Huang demonstrates through anecdote and thorough research how Chang and Eng represented the "other" in so many ways but, almost inexplicably, captured much of what constitutes the American Dream. The odd juxtaposition of the twins and the Andy Griffith Show is also described at length. Anyone who enjoys historical non-fiction written by scholars but in a narrative way would enjoy this book.
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  • Karyl
    January 1, 1970
    As a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to wend my way through the Guinness Book of World Records, and I believe it was there that I first came across Chang and Eng as conjoined twins. As with most of America at the time they were living, I was fascinated by how they could live ordinary lives even as they were attached to one another. A few weeks ago, I heard an interview on NPR with the author and knew I had to request this book. This is a fascinating look at not only the lives of Chang a As a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to wend my way through the Guinness Book of World Records, and I believe it was there that I first came across Chang and Eng as conjoined twins. As with most of America at the time they were living, I was fascinated by how they could live ordinary lives even as they were attached to one another. A few weeks ago, I heard an interview on NPR with the author and knew I had to request this book. This is a fascinating look at not only the lives of Chang and Eng and how they came to be slave-holding members of North Carolina society from a tiny village in Siam, but also what was going on in the world during this time. We get a sense of what life was like in Siam on the river, the dense smog of newly industrialized London, New York City before it became a sprawling metropolis. We learn of the twins' fight for independence from the man who bought them in Siam, and the surprising way they managed to marry and live ordinary lives in the hills of North Carolina. It is clear that Huang spent a lot of time and effort on researching this book.The issue is there's not a whole lot of the personality of the twins. It could be that they didn't write all that often. Perhaps they didn't keep diaries. But by the end of the book, all we know about the twins personally is that Chang was a hard drinker and Eng was a teetotaler, and that they both had a temper that could flare up at times. I wish there were more about who the men were as people so we could get to know them more.I did enjoy the way in which Huang managed to tie Mayberry, a place of whiteness and rose-colored glasses, to Mount Airy, home of the twins, and how the town managed to welcome someone who wasn't just not white, but a freak of nature as well. But there is quite a lot of information in this book, and at times it felt a little overwhelming.Highly recommended.
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  • Mom2nine
    January 1, 1970
    Having already read a fictionalized story about the "Siamese Twins" I was interested in this biography. Huang's research is intense and in-depth, yet the book is readable and interesting. I appreciate that he avoids assumptions or putting words or thoughts into the twins, if there is not proof. The book is incredibly detailed with notes and ledgers, all with valid sources. This is more than just a biography, though, with historical details giving an understanding of the time period and contempor Having already read a fictionalized story about the "Siamese Twins" I was interested in this biography. Huang's research is intense and in-depth, yet the book is readable and interesting. I appreciate that he avoids assumptions or putting words or thoughts into the twins, if there is not proof. The book is incredibly detailed with notes and ledgers, all with valid sources. This is more than just a biography, though, with historical details giving an understanding of the time period and contemporaries. book received in goodreads contest.
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  • Joy Adams
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this book .non fiction is my favorite genre of books .Many years ago I remember reading a book on these twins . I read this while in the hospital with a broken leg .It helped to take my mind off the pain.
  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    This is the compelling story of conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker, an amazing pair. The book is also a cultural study of America's fascination with and treatment of the other.
  • Janet Slipak
    January 1, 1970
    Nearly a decade after his triumphant Charlie Chan biography, Yunte Huang returns with this long-awaited portrait of Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–1874), twins conjoined at the sternum by a band of cartilage and a fused liver, who were “discovered” in Siam by a British merchant in 1824. Bringing an Asian American perspective to this almost implausible story, Huang depicts the twins, arriving in Boston in 1829, first as museum exhibits but later as financially savvy showmen who gained their freedom a Nearly a decade after his triumphant Charlie Chan biography, Yunte Huang returns with this long-awaited portrait of Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–1874), twins conjoined at the sternum by a band of cartilage and a fused liver, who were “discovered” in Siam by a British merchant in 1824. Bringing an Asian American perspective to this almost implausible story, Huang depicts the twins, arriving in Boston in 1829, first as museum exhibits but later as financially savvy showmen who gained their freedom and traveled the backroads of rural America to bring “entertainment” to the Jacksonian mobs. Their rise from subhuman, freak-show celebrities to rich southern gentry; their marriage to two white sisters, resulting in-one children; and their owning of slaves, is here not just another sensational biography but a Hawthorne-like excavation of America’s historical penchant for finding feast in the abnormal, for tyrannizing the “other”—a tradition that, as Huang reveals, becomes inseparable from American history itself.Out April 3, 2018MY THOUGHTS:I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.Reading about the extraordinary has always been something I’ve enjoyed, the brothers in this book are amazing. Learning about their lives as conjoined twins is both humbling and sad, mainly because of their strength of character displayed in these pages. The author obviously researched his subjects extensively and told their story without assumptions and fillers.He kept to the facts and avoided assuming how the twins felt or spoke about certain aspects of their lives. Everything was documented and supported. I found the story of Chang and Eng riveting and inspiring. To learn that they lived in Siam during the time period the movie “The King And I” is depicted in was surprising, as was the fact that they lived out their lives in Mayberry, where “The Andy Griffith Show” was set in.Learning about society during their lifetime and how their presence amongst them was felt, was frustrating and shameful. There were many ironic aspects to the Bunkers’ way of life too, of which I won’t say so as not to spoil the story for you.With support from their family and the twins desire to lead a “normal” life, the Bunker twins were truly heroic and had the courage of an army during a time of turmoil and prejudice. The end of the book that dealt with the twins death was the most disturbing for me and left me feeling sad and overwhelmed at just how horrible human nature can be. To be born in an unforgiving era…This book is a well-written and impressively researched but is more than a laid out set of facts. The author reflects on culture and historical issues relevant to the twins’ lives. The thought of ‘freak shows’ and how this is where the brothers “fit in” better was hard to read. They were born during a time of exploitation and phrenology trend in medicine was at its highest, and slavery in the United States was a way of life.I can’t even begin to imagine what they went through.I appreciated the author’s tone of voice and writing style. He executed the written language professionally and astutely.
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  • Zulfiya
    January 1, 1970
    I quite enjoyed this thoroughly researched book about the iconic Siamese twins, and I enjoyed it even more for not just being the biography of those twins, even though it would have been interested on its own, but for the book being much more than just the biography. It is the panoramic descriptions of the events all around the globe that affected and shaped the lives of the twins that made this book so meaningful and so much more compelling for me. The language is very engaging and not dry as I quite enjoyed this thoroughly researched book about the iconic Siamese twins, and I enjoyed it even more for not just being the biography of those twins, even though it would have been interested on its own, but for the book being much more than just the biography. It is the panoramic descriptions of the events all around the globe that affected and shaped the lives of the twins that made this book so meaningful and so much more compelling for me. The language is very engaging and not dry as it might often happen with non-fiction books, but at the same time, one can feel a certain level of restraint that characterizes a well-researched non-fiction book. The book does not go into the medical part of the problem as it is not its goal.Even though I would like to know more about the biology of conjoint twins, this book mostly avoids its topic with the only small exception in its final chapters, and I think this made this book more readable as the author focuses more on the cultural aspects of acceptance of " other" or a " different human being" and how we have evolved so far or how pathetically small our steps we have taken in this direction. The fun fact that surprised me that the twins were taking sides during the Civil War, and they were the slave owners fighting for the state rights to own slaves. Oh, well ... One can only speculate why they sided with the slave owners and became ones after the long period of emotional abuse, but this is the life style they enjoyed after their initial struggles and were able to live comfortably, so I can see how they were partial to the rights of the Southern states without condoning them. To sum it up, it was quite a pleasurable and engaging read.
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  • Pamela
    January 1, 1970
    The lives of Chang and Eng "Bunker" certainly made for fascinating, eye-opening reading on many levels: immigration and citizenship controversies; human trafficking/slavery travesties in ways I would have never considered; ethical considerations in terminologies such as freaks and menageries, conjoined living challenges, and so much more. In some ways it seems like we've come a long, long way from the "FREAK" obsessive, prejudicially morose, crazily curious society of the early twentieth century The lives of Chang and Eng "Bunker" certainly made for fascinating, eye-opening reading on many levels: immigration and citizenship controversies; human trafficking/slavery travesties in ways I would have never considered; ethical considerations in terminologies such as freaks and menageries, conjoined living challenges, and so much more. In some ways it seems like we've come a long, long way from the "FREAK" obsessive, prejudicially morose, crazily curious society of the early twentieth century. Then again, perhaps not. We still, as humans, are mesmerized by the wildly unusual, the greatly fantastical, the mind boggling improbably, the weirdly abnormal . . . satisfying our curiosities by rubbernecking past wrecks, scrolling through Facebook, watching deranged movies, and yes - reading books such as this. Expansively researched, pleasantly readable and well written, Yunte Huang is quite the gifted nonfiction writer. He made Chang and Eng's life-story come alive by including enriching details surrounding events of the times and others involved (directly and indirectly) in their lives. However, he was considerably zealous with added details, leading readers down rabbit trails of very limited relevance. That is primarily what impedes me from rating this book higher.FOUR **** Fascinating Biography Enriched with History, Featuring the Wildly Fantastical (and controversial) Chang and Eng **** STARS(Because Three is way too few and Five would be excessively too generous)
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  • Lynn Nysse
    January 1, 1970
    Incredible read. Full of American background history of the time before during and after the twins existed. A book describing the twins and the life that they had - good and bad. Not a book to read through in several sittings.
  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating read, covering biography, US and Asian history (esp. pre-Civil War era), a thoughtful analysis of the influence of race and immigration, PT Barnum, and even a connection to the Andy Griffith show. Highly recommend; I would like to read more by this author (esp. his award-winning book "Charlie Chan")
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  • Betty
    January 1, 1970
    excellent - very interesting, especially with the background added.
  • David
    January 1, 1970
    This was a Great book to read. I have always been fascinated with the Siamese twins since I was a little boy. I did not know that they lived in the North Carolina by Mayberry where the Andy Griffith show took place.this is a 5 star book.
  • Jodi
    January 1, 1970
    This was another of my Goodreads Giveaways wins, and it was definitely an eye-opener. I knew a little about the lives of the famous twins, but, this well researched and well written book gave me a much broader window into their lives and their time period than I had before. I had no idea that Chang and Eng were partly Chinese (through their mother), or that they lived in Siam in the time period of the "King and I", as related in the book and musical. I have always been interested in the Civil Wa This was another of my Goodreads Giveaways wins, and it was definitely an eye-opener. I knew a little about the lives of the famous twins, but, this well researched and well written book gave me a much broader window into their lives and their time period than I had before. I had no idea that Chang and Eng were partly Chinese (through their mother), or that they lived in Siam in the time period of the "King and I", as related in the book and musical. I have always been interested in the Civil War era and have read many books about it - I didn't realize that these brothers and their families lived in the thick of the war and that some of their children actually fought on the side of the Confedracy, or that they actually owned slaves themselves - ironic in the face of their past history when they were bought from their mother by Capt. Coffin and made to tour and perform for many years. Which brought me to the biggest surprise (for me) in the book - during those travels as "freaks of nature" and "oddities", the twins traveled through my home state, Ohio, and in fact, appeared in my hometown of Zanesville, and many other stops I am well acquainted with. The second biggest surprise was that the twins, when they "retired" from the road, settled down in the hills of North Carolina, in Mt. Airy, which was the model for "Mayberry" and the setting of The Andy Griffith Show - the town celebrates that much more than it does their more remote past, and the Bunker twins' lives there in the Blue Ridge Mountains. One out-of-the-way room in the museum and one lane at the Mayberry Campground (which is built on land owned by the Bunkers and their family, and where family members still reside) seem to be the sole markers, other than their headstone, to indicate that the famous twins lived the largest part of their lives there in the hills and valleys of the area, both mocked and celebrated for their own "otherness". The final part of the book, dealing with the death of the twins and the squabble that broke out over who would get "possession" of the remains to autopsy (and the fear on their families' parts that they would be embalmed and stuffed and put on display again) was very sad, and a window into that era's thirst for knowledge about the hidden recesses of the human body, or, in this case, bodies. All in all, this was a fascinating peek into the era and the lives of these men who, due to an accident of birth, became "celebrities" through no fault of their own.
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  • William Matthies
    January 1, 1970
    The title made me buy this book and I'd like you to believe I did so because I wanted to learn what effect Chang and Eng, "The Original Siamese Twins", had on "American history". I'd like you to believe that was it but that's not the reason. The truth is I wanted to learn how Chang and Eng lived their lives joined as they were from birth to death. How did they "function" (aka, go to the bathroom)? Did they have intimate relationships with women and if so, how? What happened if one got sick or ma The title made me buy this book and I'd like you to believe I did so because I wanted to learn what effect Chang and Eng, "The Original Siamese Twins", had on "American history". I'd like you to believe that was it but that's not the reason. The truth is I wanted to learn how Chang and Eng lived their lives joined as they were from birth to death. How did they "function" (aka, go to the bathroom)? Did they have intimate relationships with women and if so, how? What happened if one got sick or mad at the other? And many other challenges conjoined twins face throughout their lives, things I hadn't thought about prior to reading this book.Chang and Eng were born at the beginning of the 19th century in what was then Siam. They were brought to the US to be exhibited. They traveled extensively throughout the US and much of Europe prior to retirement in Traphill, a rural part of North Carolina where Chang and Eng share fame today with Andy Griffith's birthplace and fictitious Mayberry.I don't want to spoil what you'll learn should you read this account of their lives but I will tell you this much. They did marry two sisters and between them had 21 or 22 children (there is disagreement as to exactly how many.) The devil is in the details and the book provides that detail.As to the book itself. Author Yunte Huang answered all my questions although at times I felt he might be providing a little too much filler not directly related to the twins. Always at least indirectly related but occasionally a little off the main topic for my taste. But take that as nothing more than weak justification for deducting one star. The book is well written and if the topic interests you the cost and time to read it will be worth it.
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  • Diane Hernandez
    January 1, 1970
    Meticulously researched biography about the world’s most famous conjoined twins. Chang and Eng were joined by a small tube of skin and shared a liver. Today they would have been separated soon after birth. In the early 1800s, they were purchased from their Chinese/Siamese mother for $500. They were shipped to America in steerage while their owners cruised first-class. The twins were shown around America and briefly England as both racially curiosities and freaks while living as basically propert Meticulously researched biography about the world’s most famous conjoined twins. Chang and Eng were joined by a small tube of skin and shared a liver. Today they would have been separated soon after birth. In the early 1800s, they were purchased from their Chinese/Siamese mother for $500. They were shipped to America in steerage while their owners cruised first-class. The twins were shown around America and briefly England as both racially curiosities and freaks while living as basically property of their owners. Eventually, taking control of their life, they marry American sisters and have 21 children. They also purchase some slaves of their own.Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History does a great job of setting the scene in early America. It relates politics, demographics and culture of each year as the twins travel around the US. The twins’ story is inspiring. Going from slaves to slave owners while being obviously different from all around them is a testament to their intelligence and work ethic if not their morality. Times were different back then and the author tries to place their decisions within the culture of the times.I enjoyed Inseparable hugely. It reads like fiction despite being fully developed from contemporaneous sources. This book contains so much history, it would also be a good resource for authors writing historical fiction in the same time period. 5 stars!Thanks to the publisher, Liveright, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
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  • librarian4Him02
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of those books that is going to stick with me a long time. There is so much to it! For many years I've been interested in Chang and Eng, but never really knew much about them. Nor did I know anything about Siam outside of whatever misrepresentations may have been present in the movie The King and I. In addition to learning about the lives of Chang and Eng, I learned a great deal about climate and culture of the United States (East Coast, South, and California) around the time of the This is one of those books that is going to stick with me a long time. There is so much to it! For many years I've been interested in Chang and Eng, but never really knew much about them. Nor did I know anything about Siam outside of whatever misrepresentations may have been present in the movie The King and I. In addition to learning about the lives of Chang and Eng, I learned a great deal about climate and culture of the United States (East Coast, South, and California) around the time of the Civil War as well as the place that "freak shows" (because I can't remember the phrase Mr. Huang used) held in the pre-Civil War culture. I was most surprised and intrigued to learn that Chang and Eng (after a time) voluntarily put themselves on exhibition, how they really felt about P.T. Barnum, and that their adopted hometown of Mount Airy, North Carolina was the inspiration for The Andy Griffith Show. The book itself is readable, engaging, and thought provoking. Mr. Huang brought these brothers to life for me and I found myself wishing I'd have had the chance to meet them. As I said, though, he also made me stop and think. Would I have tried to get to know them as people or would I have been among those paying to see the human oddities? I look forward to reading more of Mr. Huang's work in the future and thank him for this most interesting look at the lives of two famous brothers and the cultures in which they lived.
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  • Brooke
    January 1, 1970
    I knew very little of the life of Change and Eng before this book and selected it based on hearing the author interviewed on the radio. Much of the book details their travels being "exhibited" as curiosities in the early 1800's. It was interesting to know that they were in the area where I live in December of 1832 and I am going to find time to look at old newspapers to see how it was covered. What I found more interesting was there life after they retired, as they became land owners and slave-h I knew very little of the life of Change and Eng before this book and selected it based on hearing the author interviewed on the radio. Much of the book details their travels being "exhibited" as curiosities in the early 1800's. It was interesting to know that they were in the area where I live in December of 1832 and I am going to find time to look at old newspapers to see how it was covered. What I found more interesting was there life after they retired, as they became land owners and slave-holders in North Carolina and married sisters, resulting in the birth of 21 children between them. The fact that this took place in Mt. Airy, the fictional Mayberry of the Andy Griffith show, was a surprise. Since the brothers evidently left few letters or papers other than their ledgers, the narrative does not lend much insight into their personalities or feelings about their physical condition. There physical connection was actually very small and today they would have been easily separated shortly after birth. To make up for that lack of first-hand evidence, the author spends too much time on historical figures that have tenuous connections to the brothers.
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  • Carol
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating story of twins born in Siam in 1811, the boys connected by a band of flesh just above their stomachs. Bought by an enterprising American when they were teens, the twins were brought to America and engaged in an international tour based on their freakiness. But the boys turned out to be intelligent and street-smart. They renegotiated their five-year contract and went on their own after three years. By 29, they were able to retire to North Carolina where they married sisters, fathered Fascinating story of twins born in Siam in 1811, the boys connected by a band of flesh just above their stomachs. Bought by an enterprising American when they were teens, the twins were brought to America and engaged in an international tour based on their freakiness. But the boys turned out to be intelligent and street-smart. They renegotiated their five-year contract and went on their own after three years. By 29, they were able to retire to North Carolina where they married sisters, fathered 21 children and became gentleman farmers, complete with slaves. To pad the story, author Yunte Huang places their story in its historical context. Some of this context is helpful such as the role freak shows played in the early 19th century. But more of it just weighs the story down such as the chapter on the Nat Turner rebellion. A nicely written paragraph could have done just as well. I'm also not sure why he placed such emphasis on the fact that the town where the twins settled turned out to be the inspiration for The Andy Griffith Show (annoyingly referred to as TAGS throughout the book). I skimmed large parts of this book because of this contextual "rendezvous with American history."
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  • Sheri
    January 1, 1970
    I had heard of the siamese twins Chang and Eng, but knew nothing of their actual life story. After trying so many times to read this book I still know nothing more than the brief book description on the inside of the book jacket.For me Yunte Huang seems to go off on long winded rants about unimportant insignificant details. He often spends half to what seems like an entire page about the names of everyone who attended an event that the twins were part of. It wasn't that he was getting ready to d I had heard of the siamese twins Chang and Eng, but knew nothing of their actual life story. After trying so many times to read this book I still know nothing more than the brief book description on the inside of the book jacket.For me Yunte Huang seems to go off on long winded rants about unimportant insignificant details. He often spends half to what seems like an entire page about the names of everyone who attended an event that the twins were part of. It wasn't that he was getting ready to develop another character in their life story just long winded narration.I never knew the twins had married, settled in North Carolina and fathered 21 children. I only learned that from the cover description. Though I did scan most of the book I never got to a section that really just covered that. Yunte so often went off on other human oddities comparing them to the twins, but in detail--long detail.The actual life story of the twins is something I will try to find in another book, but this book is not one I could finish or would recommend.
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  • Maurice Tougas
    January 1, 1970
    Chang and Eng, the original Siamese twins, are a quite remarkable American story of a couple of "freaks" who overcame their handicap to live relatively long and productive (in all ways; they had 21 kids between them) lives. A clue to author Yunte Huang's approach can be found in the subtitle of the book: "The original Siamese twins and their rendezvous with American history". Huang includes a lot of American history in this overly detailed book. A great deal of the book isn't about the twins at Chang and Eng, the original Siamese twins, are a quite remarkable American story of a couple of "freaks" who overcame their handicap to live relatively long and productive (in all ways; they had 21 kids between them) lives. A clue to author Yunte Huang's approach can be found in the subtitle of the book: "The original Siamese twins and their rendezvous with American history". Huang includes a lot of American history in this overly detailed book. A great deal of the book isn't about the twins at all, but America of the Civil War era. While I found the twins story to be fascinating (the brothers owned slaves!) the frequent sidebars into American history were less interesting. I found it easy to skip over pages of this overlong (380 page) epic. If you're a Civil War-era buff, you'll enjoy Inseparable a lot more than I did.
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  • Richard
    January 1, 1970
    Nice read about the " Siamese Twins ". They weren't the world's first siamese twins, but were the first to be exploited that's for sure. They were plucked from the Mekong River Delta area of Siam ( today's Thailand ) by a profiteer Scotsman who wanted to exploit their uniqueness or ' freakness ' depending on whom you speak with. At the age of 18 they first toured the U.K. and then the eastern U.S. with their shows. About 5 yrs. later on they rebelled from slavemaster, so to speak and became inde Nice read about the " Siamese Twins ". They weren't the world's first siamese twins, but were the first to be exploited that's for sure. They were plucked from the Mekong River Delta area of Siam ( today's Thailand ) by a profiteer Scotsman who wanted to exploit their uniqueness or ' freakness ' depending on whom you speak with. At the age of 18 they first toured the U.K. and then the eastern U.S. with their shows. About 5 yrs. later on they rebelled from slavemaster, so to speak and became independent performers. Interesting read about their lives in terms of racism and their unusual condition. They were part Chinese/Thai who eventually married two Caucasian sisters and sired a brood of 21 youngin's - go figure ?!
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  • Shelley
    January 1, 1970
    This is an interesting survey of the lives of the "Siamese" (they were ethnically Chinese) twins who came to the US as curiosities, retired to the South, owned slaves, and then lost almost everything after the war. It's very readable and very interesting. While limited by the quality/quantity of source material, the historical summaries that filled in the gaps were never obtrusive. Also, Professor Huang is able to draw a story from expense reports, which is no mean feat.Except. I never want to r This is an interesting survey of the lives of the "Siamese" (they were ethnically Chinese) twins who came to the US as curiosities, retired to the South, owned slaves, and then lost almost everything after the war. It's very readable and very interesting. While limited by the quality/quantity of source material, the historical summaries that filled in the gaps were never obtrusive. Also, Professor Huang is able to draw a story from expense reports, which is no mean feat.Except. I never want to read that Diderot's Encyclopedia was a "sort of Wikipedia of the Enlightenment." Ever. Again. Or see "sort of" and "more on that later" repeated in the text. (I did read an ARC, so hopefully it was corrected before publication.)
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  • Martha Warner
    January 1, 1970
    It took me awhile to finish this book as there was a lot of history and unfamiliar historical vocabulary that I had to digest. Overall i found it a fascinating oeek into 1800s america aside from what i learned in traditional history books. The siamese twins helped me humanize the era. I was disappointed in the last few chapters however. I did mot appreciate the major digression into the mayberry rfd references. While i understand they shared a home town with andy griffith i felt the author delve It took me awhile to finish this book as there was a lot of history and unfamiliar historical vocabulary that I had to digest. Overall i found it a fascinating oeek into 1800s america aside from what i learned in traditional history books. The siamese twins helped me humanize the era. I was disappointed in the last few chapters however. I did mot appreciate the major digression into the mayberry rfd references. While i understand they shared a home town with andy griffith i felt the author delved way too much into the show at the end of this engrossing story. I also wish they could have had more insight into the very last hours of the twins’ lives .
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  • Lisa Rogers
    January 1, 1970
    Obviously the author did a tremendous amount of research which translated effectively in evoking early 18th Century Siam, the birthplace of Chang and Eng. Equally obvious is the fact that he could only find some info on the twins and more on the people who came in contact with them. Pages and pages went by taking us further afield of our subject as the author gave us minute details on the lives of the people who simply were traveling on the same boat as the twins. I was dying to know more about Obviously the author did a tremendous amount of research which translated effectively in evoking early 18th Century Siam, the birthplace of Chang and Eng. Equally obvious is the fact that he could only find some info on the twins and more on the people who came in contact with them. Pages and pages went by taking us further afield of our subject as the author gave us minute details on the lives of the people who simply were traveling on the same boat as the twins. I was dying to know more about how the twins both got married, had children, and carried on their daily lives, given their physical abnormality. I wish more of the book had devoted itself to indulging my prurient interest.
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  • Paula Yerke
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting book about conjoined twins from Siam that of course led to the term "Siamese twins". It was the story of their lives but also the story of the times they lived in. Thank goodness we have progressed in many ways from the mid 1800s and our treatment of the "other". For sure, we still have a long way to go but reading the depiction of that time gives one hope. I enjoyed how the author used their adopted home of "Mayberry" fame and contrasted their lives with the TV show's depiction o An interesting book about conjoined twins from Siam that of course led to the term "Siamese twins". It was the story of their lives but also the story of the times they lived in. Thank goodness we have progressed in many ways from the mid 1800s and our treatment of the "other". For sure, we still have a long way to go but reading the depiction of that time gives one hope. I enjoyed how the author used their adopted home of "Mayberry" fame and contrasted their lives with the TV show's depiction of life. Most interesting, is that these 2 men married and fathered 21 children. I was also fascinated by what happened when one of them died. Not a page-turner type book but I enjoyed it.
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  • Val
    January 1, 1970
    This is almost an academic exploration of the lives and history of the original Siamese Twins, written by a Guggenheim Fellow and a professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Not only does he give the biography of Chang and Eng Bunker, but he also explores the people and events surrounding them, some in great detail, including the Civil War, the use of slaves, and PT Barnum and the exploitation of "freaks". He also introduces us to their hometown, which is also the town This is almost an academic exploration of the lives and history of the original Siamese Twins, written by a Guggenheim Fellow and a professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Not only does he give the biography of Chang and Eng Bunker, but he also explores the people and events surrounding them, some in great detail, including the Civil War, the use of slaves, and PT Barnum and the exploitation of "freaks". He also introduces us to their hometown, which is also the town used for the TV show Mayberry. This book will give you a better appreciation of all that they were able to accomplish and the legacy they left behind.
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  • Enid
    January 1, 1970
    The author obviously did a great deal of research for this book, but unfortunately he felt the need to put everything he learned into it. It was way too detailed and went off on long tangents about other topics, people and places that were only tangentially related to the twins. The sentences were often extremely complex- I often had to re-read a sentence to figure out what the subject was, as there were often 5-8 phrases in just one sentence. The author also liked to use esoteric words in these The author obviously did a great deal of research for this book, but unfortunately he felt the need to put everything he learned into it. It was way too detailed and went off on long tangents about other topics, people and places that were only tangentially related to the twins. The sentences were often extremely complex- I often had to re-read a sentence to figure out what the subject was, as there were often 5-8 phrases in just one sentence. The author also liked to use esoteric words in these long, windy paragraphs, and he did not always use them correctly.
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