The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History

Yunte Huang (Author, University of California, Santa Barbara)

Logo markA Liveright book


With wry humor, Shakespearean profundity, and trenchant insight, Yunte Huang brings to life the story of America’s most famous nineteenth-century Siamese twins.

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 twenty-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.

Book Details

  • Hardcover, Rough Front - Edge: Deckle, Feather, Uncut
  • Forthcoming April 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-87140-447-3
  • 6.5 × 9.6 in / 416 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

Inseparable tells an astonishing story, by turns ghastly, hilarious, unnerving, and moving. Huang is a dazzling writer, bold, energetic, and intellectually alert. His gripping account of the lives of the celebrated Siamese twins Cheng and Eng not only richly illuminates the past of P.T. Barnum and Mark Twain but also probes the racial and sexual politics of the present.” — Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve

“Chang and Eng waltzed, arm and arm, indivisible, across a brutally divided America. Huang's spellbinding account tells their story with a complexity, and sensitivity, with which it has never been told before.” — Jill Lepore, author of The Secret History of Wonder Woman

“Moving, wise, and wide-ranging, Inseparable is the poignant story of what it means to live in a diverse culture that strains after uniformity. As in Charlie Chan, Yunte Huang has once again found a perfect subject -- perfectly commensurate with his sympathy for American history and the American compulsion to stereotype that which it fails to understand. And so elegantly written, it's impossible to put down.” — Brenda Wineapple, author of Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877

Also by Yunte Huang All

  1. Book CoverThe Big Red Book of Modern Chinese Literature: Writings from the Mainland in the Long Twentieth Century


  2. Book CoverCharlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History