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The Meanings of Identity and the Nature of Belonging

Author Wing Young Huie

Minnesota Historical Society Press (November 1, 2018)

Reframing the conversations around race and identity, a talented photographer offers a prism through which to explore our modern era of cultural uncertainty.


Is Chinese identity personal, national, cultural, political? Does it migrate, become malleable or transmuted? What is authentic, sacred, kitsch? Using documentary and conceptual photographic strategies, acclaimed photographer Wing Young Huie explores the meaning of Chinese-ness in his home state of Minnesota, throughout the United States, and in China.

Huie, the youngest of six children and the only one born in the United States, grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, where images of pop culture fed, formed, and confused him. At times his own parents seemed foreign and exotic. His visit to China in 2010 compounded the confusion: his American-ness made him as visible there as his Chinese-ness did in Minnesota.

To make sense of his experiences, Huie photographed and interviewed people of Chinese descent and those influenced by Chinese-ness. Their multifaceted perspectives project humor and irony, as well as cultural guilt and uncertainty. In a series of diptychs, Huie wears the clothes of Chinese men whose lives he could have lived, blurring the boundary between photographer and subject.

How does Chinese-ness collide with American-ness? And who gets to define those hyphenated abstract nouns? Part meta-memoir and part actual memoir, Chinese-ness reframes today’s conversations about race and identity.

Author information

Wing Young Huie is a photographer, an author, and the owner of Third Place Gallery in Minneapolis.

Biography of Wing Young Huie from

For over 30 years, celebrated photographer Wing Young Huie has captured the complex cultural realities of American society. His work has been shown in international museums—over half a million people have viewed his traveling exhibit in China—and in Minnesota storefront windows. His most well known works, Lake Street USA and the University Avenue Project, transformed Minneapolis and Saint Paul thoroughfares into six-mile photo galleries, reflecting the everyday lives of thousands of their citizens.

His projects explore a myriad of social issues, including immigration, race, adoption, urban and rural life, dementia, faith, Lutheranism, gender, homelessness, and youth culture. Though much of his work centers on his homeland of Minnesota, his current series Chinese-ness explores experiences of identity in the United States and the Motherland of China, employing documentary and conceptual conceits, and occasionally a chalkboard.

Wing uses photography as a societal mirror and window, seeking to reveal not only what is hidden, but also what is plainly visible and seldom noticed, providing a collective portrait of the them who are really us. As an extension of his public art installations that create informal communal spaces, in spring 2011 Wing opened The Third Place Gallery. Housed in a building that previously sat empty for 47 years,Wing has turned the space into an urban living room for guest artists, social conversation, karaoke, and ping pong.

Wing Young Huie Named 2018 McKnight Foundation Distinguished Artist:
Star Tribune
Pioneer Press

Reviews and news

Minnesota Book Award Winner in Memoir/Creative Non-Fiction

Northeast Minnesota Book Award Winner in Art/Photography

Advance Praise:

“The stories we tell about ourselves are the persons we become. These narratives form our identities, and identity is malleable. Wing Young Huie is an exceptional artist, and anything he puts his heart, mind, and hands to is sure to be amazing. His latest work, Chinese-ness, is a gift not only to those of us of Chinese ancestry, but to anyone interested in finding new and expanded ways of re-creating ourselves and understanding others.”
Leslie Li, author of Daughter of Heaven: A Memoir with Earthly Recipes

“Wing Young Huie is as perceptive with his words as he is with his images. Chinese-ness is an essential document for exploring cultural identity in the twenty-first century.
Herb Tam, Curator and Director of Exhibitions, Museum of Chinese in America

“This collection of words and pictures is authentic, compelling, and unique. China and America are the two great powers of our era. Ever the twain shall meet. Here is how. Anyone curious about this collision of cultures will see they can blend together.”
Frank H. Wu, author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White

In the Media:


China Daily



Star Tribune

Pioneer Press

Alive Magazine

Minnesota Magazine

Friends of the St. Paul Public Library/Minnesota Book Awards


Minnesota History articles by Wing Young Huie: Do You See Me?, Romance for the Chinese Restaurant, Photographic Questions, Bugs Bunny

Related resources

Library Guide: Chinese in Minnesota Overview

Oral Histories: Chinese immigrants in Minnesota, Minnesota Chinese Oral History Project

Book: Chinese in Minnesota by Sherri Gebert Fuller

MNopedia: Liang May Seen

Minnesota History: Liang May Seen and the Early Chinese Community in Minneapolis, Mirrored Identities: The Moys of St. Paul, Yang T'Su: Chinese Altar from Minneapolis

Collection Finding Aids: Weiming Lu


  • 160 pages
  • 100 color photos
  • 8x10 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681340425

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