American Chinatown

Author Interviews

August 11, 2009 on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show. Listen to the story:

August 12, 2009 on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. Listen to the story.

August 18, 2009 on SCPR’s AirTalk with Larry Mantle. Listen to the story.

August 18, 2009 on KNPR’s State of Nevada. Listen to the story.

August 19, 2009 on KQED’s Forum with Michael Krasny. Listen to the story:

August 20, 2009 on CNN International’s CNN Today. Watch the story:

Q&A with Jean Yung, Annenberg School of Journalism,
University of Southern California
“What have the Chinatowns in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Honolulu meant to each city and to America? And how does the newly developing Chinatown in Las Vegas figure into the landscape? In American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods, Bonnie Tsui follows the lives of several generations to explore the identity specific to the Chinatown experience.”

August 27, 2009 Q&A with The Faster Times
“Woody Allen once said: ‘I’m astounded by people who want to “know” the universe when it’s hard enough to find your way around Chinatown.’ Sadly, Woody didn’t know Bonnie Tsui when he made that statement. Her latest book forms a series of elucidating images of what these communities mean to the people who live inside them as well as those of us who would look at them from a distance. In the end, Chinatown, as a concept, comes to mean something larger about the nature of traveling in search of Otherness, but at the same time the book provides a deep look at what makes each of these communities tick and progress.”

August 31, 2009 on KALW’s New America Now. Listen to the story here.

September 7, 2009 Talk with The Los Angeles Times
“How five Chinatowns in five American cities have created a special sense of community — and, in the case of the one in Los Angeles, an interesting relationship with Hollywood.”

September 24, 2009 Talk with The New York Times
“New York City’s Chinatown encompasses the old and new, reflecting both its century-and-a-half of history and its current influx of fresh immigrants. Bonnie Tsui, author of American Chinatown, gave a tour of the highlights of the one in Manhattan, where her grandparents settled in 1960 to work. ”

October 7, 2009 Interview with World Hum
“There has always been a Chinatown in Bonnie Tsui‘s life. Though she was raised on New York’s Long Island, Tsui writes in her book that it was Manhattan’s Chinatown where her family went ‘to be Chinese.’”

October 21, 2009 Interview with Las Vegas Weekly
“Tsui explores the roots of Chinatown in Las Vegas — it was the dream of a California vegetable farmer-turned-developer named James Chen — along with the neighborhood’s fight for legitimacy and its growth as a community.”

November 24, 2009 on KALW’s “Your Call”
“How do our family history and historical roots help us to map our present and our future? Writer Bonnie Tsui writes about her journey in her latest book, American Chinatown.”

December 2, 2009 Simon & Schuster Author Video

December 18, 2009 Interview with The Honolulu Advertiser
“Tsui doesn’t ignore the complex issues that face many Chinatowns — crime, rising costs, problems of new immigrants, land values. Her primary goal, however, was to gather the stories that will lead to conversations.”

February 1, 2010 Q&A with Rolf Potts for his monthly travel writer series

February 22, 2010 Interview with The Oakland Tribune
“[Tsui's] childhood trips led to a lifelong relationship with Chinatown, not just in New York, but with Chinatowns around the world. She delved into their histories, and examined how today the tremendous economic changes occurring in mainland China are changing the faces of America’s Chinatowns.”

March 19, 2010 Videocast of the Friday evening lecture series at the City University of New York

June 21, 2011 A conversation with The Creosote Journal
“Bonnie Tsui charts the changing landscapes of five American neighborhoods… places of constant reinvention: immigrants coming to build new lives and identities, urban neighborhoods in economic and cultural flux. Today more than ever, they’re a portrait of changing urban dynamics and intergenerational complexity.”

December 31, 2011 Bonnie Tsui takes All Things Considered host Rebecca Sheir on a walk around New York’s Chinatown, and discusses the changing face of America’s historic neighborhoods.

January 8, 2013 Bonnie Tsui joins KQED’s Forum with Michael Krasny to discuss Philip Choy’s new book, San Francisco Chinatown: A Guide to Its History and Architecture.

Chinatown Newsfeed

The existential threats faced by Chinatown
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Patrick Kerkstra meditates on Chinatown’s future.

In Havana’s Chinatown, rare droplets of freedom
On one freewheeling street in Havana’s Chinatown, privately run restaurants offer chow mein and mojitos, and Chinese exchange students belt out karaoke.

The Old Neighborhood
A terrific interview with author Richard Price of Lush Life, on the rich ethnic tapestry of the Lower East Side and Chinatown.

Girl in Translation
An absorbing new novel about a girl who immigrates to New York’s Chinatown, by Jean Kwok.

Chinese Americans Look to Homeland
Opportunities lure some back to China.

Art in Storefronts Launches in Chinatown
Multimedia projects enliven the San Francisco neighborhood.

Military a Portal for Chinese-Americans, a Divide for Their Families
For many vets, military experience was the only channel to enter or advance within mainstream society.

Cleveland’s Chinatown Sees a Renaissance
Cleveland has been home to a Chinatown for nearly 100 years, and today’s AsiaTown is a hit.

Attacks on Asians Highlight New Racial Tensions
Escalated attacks on elderly Asians alarm local San Francisco leaders.

Around Town With Chicago Chinatown Resident Ryan Hu
A 22-year-old local talks about the neighborhood.

A World’s Fair Great Wall in China Portrays the Chinese in America
Seventy million people are expected to visit the Shanghai World Expo, and 10,000 Chinese Americans will be a virtual part of it.

Driving the Census in New York’s Chinatown
Tying the increasing awareness of political power in the Chinese community with the census has become a major strategy here.

Project Mah Jongg
Jews and the mah-jongg experience.

Home Before He Knew He Was Pardoned
David Paterson Pardons Qing Hong Wu.

The Judge and the Immigrant, 15 Years Later
As he promised Judge Michael Corriero, former juvenile offender Qing Hong Wu turned his life around, but now faces deportation.

From Far East to American West
Christopher Corbett’s The Poker Bride tells the story of Polly Bernis, one of the first Chinese to arrive in the American West.

From Exclusion to Inclusion, A Century Later
100 people become naturalized U.S. citizens on the 100th anniversary of Angel Island Immigration Station.

Foreign Languages Fade in Class — Except Chinese
Chinese will likely overtake German this year as the third most-tested A.P. language, behind Spanish and French.

A Day in the Life of a Chinatown Family
Three generations of Mos live in SROs within a block of each other in San Francisco.

New York’s Chinatown Elects Its First Chinese-American Representative to City Council
Margaret Chin wins in a landslide victory.

Mandarin Classes Outnumber Cantonese
The soundscape of Chinatown shifts again.

Presenting the Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project
The Oakland Asian Cultural Center opens its Chinatown Memory Map to the public.

Professor Peter Kwong Answers Questions About the Gentrification of Chinatown
Kwong discusses New York’s Chinatown and its viability as a living, working neighborhood today.

A Neon History of the Chop Suey Restaurant
Photographer Rick Wong has been documenting the distinctive gaudy neon signage of this slice of Chinese Americana for more than 15 years.

Invisible Immigrants, Old and Left with “Nobody to Talk To”
The elderly now make up America’s fastest-growing immigrant group.

A Visual Tour of SRO Living in San Francisco’s Chinatown
Yanfen Liu has lived in an 8×10-foot single-room occupancy hotel room for 14 years, raising her daughter there. More than 400 residents today live in similar circumstances.

The Museum of Chinese in America’s Opening Exhibit
The new location of MOCA will officially open September 22.

Cantonese Boy
Only Won and Larissa Lam create an autobiographical spin on the Grammy-winning song, “American Boy,” by Estelle featuring Kanye West.

“English Cafe” a Doorway for Immigrants to Venture Outside Chinatown
Chinese immigrants in Toronto get beyond the cultural “glass wall” with friendly native English-speaking volunteers.

Have Food, Will Travel
Writer and cook Leonard Shek has been in the restaurant business since childhood and is working on a film about food, family, and his travels to Guangdong Province.

Aging Immigrant Associations Seek New Life
Longtime immigrant associations, from Italian to Cuban, Irish to Chinese, are trying to attract younger members to survive.

New Home for Chinese Experience in America
I’ll be reading at this newly expanded, newly relocated Museum of Chinese in America, designed by Maya Lin, on September 14.

Chinatown a Playground of “Oriental” Stereotypes

Writer Ann Hui says Victoria’s Chinatown is an exercise in ethnic amusement, where stereotypes of all things “Oriental” are bought and sold.

When Slumming Was the Thing to Do
The beginning of an entertainment phenomenon that lasted decades: well-off white New Yorkers exploring black, Chinese, gay or poor working-class communities.

Chef Chris Cheung Always Heads Back to Chinatown
Chris Cheung, executive chef of East Village restaurant China 1, was raised in Chinatown and describes himself as “fixated on Northern Chinese cuisine with an American sensibility.”

Patrick Radden Keefe Continues the Tale of Sister Ping
Check out Keefe’s terrific new book, The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream.

America’s Chinatown Voices
This summer, artists Nathalie Pham and Avani Patel created a communal installation in New York’s Columbus Park, where neighborhood residents can add their own thoughts or doodles.

MOCA NYC Presents the Chinatown Film Project
Check out the Museum of Chinese in America’s fantastic short film project on Chinatowns the world over.

Wish Chinatown A Happy 71st Birthday
Los Angeles’ New Chinatown celebrates its 71st year with a festival and a look back at how the district came to be.

Steve Nash Gathers Soccer Legends for the 2009 “Showdown in Chinatown”
NBA superstar Steve Nash brings together the world’s best soccer and basketball players on one New York pitch to benefit Athletes for Africa and Football for Good.

Him Mark Lai Dies at 83; Scholar Was Called Dean of Chinese American Studies
Along with friend and colleague Philip Choy, Him Mark Lai taught the first university-level course on Chinese American history in 1969 at San Francisco State.

Mayor Sinks “Shrimp Boy” Market
San Francisco mayor kills Chinatown night market after ex-gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow offers to run it.

For Lisa See, Los Angeles’ Chinatown Was Always Like Stepping into Her Past
Author Lisa See talks about her new book, Shanghai Girls.

One in 8 Million

The New York Times spotlights the extraordinary lives of ordinary New Yorkers.

A Look at Hollywood’s China Syndrome

A review of Arthur Dong’s wonderful documentary, Hollywood Chinese.

Speaking in Tongues: A Documentary

This documentary follows a handful of San Francisco students as they make their way through second-language immersion classes.

Ni Hao. My Name Is Gillibrand, but Feel Free to Call Me Senator Lu

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York wows Chinatown.

Praise for the Book

American Chinatown is a finalist for the 2010 Asian American Literary Award
for Nonfiction
“Provides us with a fascinating glimpse into an ethnic phenomenon that, like America, is constantly changing and reinventing itself.”

American Chinatown has won the 2009 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
“Lively, edifying, and personal… [this] revealing and affectionate book is overall the story of ordinary and upstanding Americans.”

American Chinatown is one of The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Best of 2009:
50 Notable Bay Area Books

“A wonderfully revealing and compassionate trip into the real lives of men and women who straddle the world’s two great powers. Tsui plunges into Chinatowns that are, like China itself, reinventing themselves before our eyes, showing not only to what it means to be Chinese in the world, but also the spirit of self-invention that made America great.”
-Evan Osnos, Beijing correspondent, The New Yorker

“A fascinating and thoughtful look at a thoroughly American phenomenon.”
-Gish Jen, author of The Love Wife

“Affectionately and astutely, Bonnie Tsui has has captured the ways that five Chinatowns connect their inhabitants to culture, history, language, food, and to China itself — even if they’ve never been there. She has looked beyond the colorful tourist facades to find unique neighborhoods that serve as home for some, refuges for others, and places of memory for all.”
-Lisa See, author of Shanghai Girls

“In this masterful work, Bonnie Tsui charts the fascinating history of America’s Chinatowns. From geography to economics to linguistics, she presents a vibrant, intimate portrait of communities that have played a crucial role in shaping the American landscape. There are dozens of evocative, exhilarating and touching stories here, from those of a beauty queen to a Vegas poker-dealer in training. Candid, witty, and always engaging, Tsui is a wonderful guide for these many journeys.”
-Sara Houghteling, author of Pictures at an Exhibition

“There’s more to Chinatown than many of us realize. Author Bonnie Tsui spoke with residents about their daily lives and visited five of the most storied Chinatowns in the country for her new book, American Chinatown.”
-NPR’s “Talk of the Nation”

“Bonnie Tsui’s American Chinatown is an exploration of five communities — in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Las Vegas — and how the Chinese-American residents of each have formed their own distinct cultures.”
-The New Yorker, “American Chinatown: A Photo Essay

“Tsui gives us an updated real-life insider look at the Chinatowns in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Las Vegas (yes, Las Vegas!). Whatever the future of Chinatowns, American Chinatown reinforces the importance of place for ethnic Chinese of all stripes – recent immigrants and generations of Chinese Americans alike.”
-The San Francisco Chronicle

“For hundreds of thousands of people, Chinatown is home. In American Chinatown, author Bonnie Tsui immerses herself in some of these communities, exploring their class struggles, rivalries, customs and dialects. Through reportage and research, her book examines how each of these neighborhoods came to be and how their identities have evolved.”
-The Los Angeles Times

“San Francisco’s Chinatown may be the oldest in the United States. Los Angeles’s Chinatown may have been immortalized on the silver screen. Flushing, in Queens, may actually have the largest number of Chinese residents in New York City. But Manhattan’s Chinatown is still a potent symbol, both culturally and politically, for Chinese in the eastern part of the United States. Manhattan’s Chinatown is about duality, notes Bonnie Tsui, author of American Chinatown, which details the Chinatowns in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Honolulu and Las Vegas.”
-The New York Times

“Through these slice-of-life stories, the author uncovers intriguing facets of Chinese-American people — the often unnoticed poverty, the strong community support, the ways in which the rest of America has long exotified them.”
-Kirkus Reviews

“In her new book, local author and travel writer Bonnie Tsui strips away the touristy facade of San Francisco’s Chinatown — and Chinese communities in five other U.S. cities — to provide a ‘people’s history’ of these vibrant ethnic enclaves.”
-KQED’s “Forum with Michael Krasny”

“In this new portrait of the Chinatowns of five major American cities, Bonnie Tsui brings to life a neighborhood that is often portrayed as a caricatured tourist trap or a foreign island in the midst of America.”
-Harvard Book Store

“Delightful… [Tsui's] warm descriptions are accompanied by her own photographs and hand-drawn maps. All readers interested in Chinese American subjects must consider this title.”
-Library Journal

“Tsui’s strengths are apparent in her intensive interviews with many different individuals, all of whom comprise the communities in each Chinatown. She has a wonderful ear, incredible patience, and a lively curiosity. Investigating what seems like small details, as a historian does, the author demonstrates how valuable these are to the individuals, to the neighborhoods, and to a larger diasporic Asian American population. This is a valuable contribution to ethnic and American Studies. A very smart documentary book.”
-Greta Aiyu Niu, Assistant Professor of English, University of Rochester

American Chinatown delves into often mystifying Chinatowns… each different and brimming with fascinating stories.”
-National Geographic Traveler

“An engaging exploration of Chinatown’s history and culture. [Tsui] talks to scholars and shop owners, activists and immigrants, even teens. The result is a sharply drawn portrait of five Chinatowns — and of Chinatown as it has been writ large in the American imagination. Indeed, American Chinatown helps us understand how Chinatown — complex, conflicted and buffeted by the same forces of globalization, commercialization and gentrification that are transforming the rest of the country — is itself profoundly American.”

“Early in her book, Bonnie Tsui points out that despite often prevalent filth and litter, Chinatown has a fascination on a ‘child’s eye level of experience.’ That fascination is magnified all the more, for anyone of any age, after reading this book by the San Francisco author. An intimate glimpse into what makes each Chinatown its own enclave.”
-Contra Costa Times

“Even a fast drive past the pagoda-studded strip malls along Spring Mountain reveals markets and travel shops, jewelers, art stores and a plethora of restaurants representing countries across Asia. This new book reveals the authentic community inside Las Vegas’ Chinatown.”
-Las Vegas Weekly

“[Tsui's] blending of historical and contemporary concerns and realities, the clash of fear and independence she describes, and ultimately, her warm love of the people served by these communities makes us think of [Wayne] Wang’s old filmic mash note, [Chan Is Missing]. This one you can curl up with, though.”
-SF Weekly

“Fascinating, personal, no-nonsense… a delightful exploration of what makes each Chinatown a unique destination.”
-Mechanics’ Institute Library

“I recommend Bonnie Tsui’s new book, American Chinatown. The five Chinatowns that she describes are in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Las Vegas. Two of fifteen chapters deal with food, including one that tells the story of the world’s largest fortune cookie manufacturer.”
-Robin Datel, Sacramento segment of NPR’s “Morning Edition”

AFAR‘s travel stories go beyond the tourist sights to explore the true character of a place and connect with its people. Writer Bonnie Tsui does just that in her new book, AMERICAN CHINATOWN: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods.”
-AFAR magazine

“Bonnie Tsui offers a compelling inside look at the history, meaning, and intriguing identity of Chinatown as seen in five thriving enclaves: San Francisco (the city she currently calls home), her native New York City, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Las Vegas. Tsui’s perspective on Chinese heritage and urban America is enlightening. Whether your interest lies in culture, history, or food, you’ll find this selection a fascinating read.”
-U.S. Airways magazine

“Chinatown offers a sense of direction, of belonging. And as Bonnie Tsui’s fine new book makes clear, Chinatown, unique and fascinating from every angle, is also a state of mind.”
-Asian American Press

“Provides an evocative impression of the lives of those living within these well-known but largely undiscovered cities-within-cities.”
-Downtown Express

“An intimate look at a cultural icon of Chinese immigration and settlement in the United States. Part memoir, part oral history, part travel writing, part geography, and part ethnography, Tsui takes Chinatown as an organizing trope to present a complex view of Chinese and Chinese-American experiences.”
-The Asian Reporter

Bonnie Tsui and American Chinatown were profiled in the August 3, 2009 edition of
World Journal, and the September 14, 2009 edition of Sing Tao Daily, the leading Chinese-language newspaper for the Chinese community worldwide.

Overheard on Twitter

May 24, 2010
makena:i Having a mechanic in Chinatown means a good lunch while waiting for oil changes.

robb0t: You know which city has a HUGE Chinatown? Hong Kong.

eddieburger: Gosta de comida chinesa? Então experimente o #ChinaTown: pão de hambúrguer, peito de frango, abacaxi grelhado, molho chinês e muitas fritas!

April 26, 2010
viawesome: Dear Chinatown meter person: last week you gave me two tickets for parking my scooter legally. None this week, please.

davidSEIBEI: Chinatown NYC. I’m gonna have to pay an oversize bag fee but it’ll be so worth it.

skage: New banksy streetart in chinatown San Francisco

Raedances: It is one of those days. I want to ride the train past work and go shopping (eating) in Chinatown.

March 18, 2010
stat29: Craving some bubble tea but too busy to go get some in Philly Chinatown.

RickFamuyiwa: Walking thru chinatown thinking about Jake Geddes.

February 3, 2010
SCohenjehoram: Loop door chinatown en vraag me af: waarom geen folder in t Chinees?

minigolfpharaos: Chinatown Chill by Suff Daddy on #SoundCloud

spleen0000: if chinese new year is the 14th, why are the chinatown celebrations on the 21st? thought it was gonna be on valentine’s day ¬_¬

hyfen: While you all were curled up in bed last night, I was snapping photos of snowy Chinatown on my way home.

January 21, 2010
shawn_lillie: Life lesson: if you walk around chinatown long enough you will find turtle food. Pam eats tonight! :-) ha ha

ECUfilmfestival: New! Learn about ÉCU’s home PARIS: Chinatown a taste of modern Paris.

honadv: Chinatown 96817: Chinatown takes 6 of the 20 things to do:

jingalinggg: out to chinatown with mom. bleh -o-;

December 7, 2009
MeganSakura: Research on chinese gangs has forever tinted my perception of chinatown!!!!

HETHandJED: Busking the streets of NYC is no different than skateboarding a new trick down in Chinatown. U need to respect the city or it slaps back.

shunquan: chinatown for the 3rd day in a row. this time with mother.

mpiscitello: Pretty sure I just watched the Chinese version of Project Runway at a little noodle house in Chinatown. Win!

November 4, 2009
NY1noticias: Buscan a ladrón de banco en Chinatown

jspiro: Only a doctor’s office in NYC would have showtunes in the waiting room. And only one in Chinatown would have Chinese showtunes.

: Down at the courts/Chinatown. It’s a pleasant fall day!

tinhead: Virginia redneck: I love the Chinese, very nice people! You guys from Chinatown? Chinese woman: No, we’re from Brooklyn.

October 5, 2009
adrianmoss: 5 hours walking back streets Bangkok yesterday. Chinatown amazing. Alley industries. Scrap lane full of reclaimed engines + mini smelters

xolotl: wouldn’t it be ironic if the Chinese flag were actually flying on a building in Chinatown?

brfreed: “Chinatown” is buried in my Netflix queue. Should I promote it?

_dawen_: Thanks to everyone who came to the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations! Chinatown, definitely feelin the love!

September 8, 2009
agentmule: Rolling through Chinatown, noticed that while devoted to chopsticks they’ve hedged their cultural predisposition by embracing the forklift.

lelandwong: – the old chinatown quickly disappearing

silentalliance: Saw Chinatown last night. Thought it was excellent, though there wasn’t all that much Chinatown in it.

freedomweknow: At chinatown having wanton noodles for lunch. Lots of old men playing chinese checkers.

August 6, 2009
batterista: What’s the best Chinese restaurant in DC’s Chinatown. Looking for quality, authenticity

antparty: Chinatown: where bball happens at 1:20am.

bramerth: in Chinatown trying to order 40 pieces of dim sum for the office. I don’t speak Cantonese, they don’t speak English. I think they’re annoyed

nicocoa: hittin that chinatown in vegas

July 9, 2009
notfortourists: Words we thought we’d never see together: “comfort” and “Manhattan Bridge”. Welcome to the new Chinatown.

acarvin: Heading out on a soup hunt in Chinatown. Sore throat requires some elixir of wonton.

conector RT @arnaldobranco: “Políticos, putas e prédios feios, todos ficam respeitáveis se durarem tempo suficiente” – Noah Cross em Chinatown

OsaB: In bank of america in chinatown. And nobody speaks english. The dollar bills are almost in chinese sef.

June 12, 2009
WorkinGreekGirl: Felt a need for adventure. Decided to take Fung Wah bus at last minute. I heard there are live chickens on the bus. Chinatown here I come.

motomon: hi back at the chinatown library. checking out the manga. reading inuyasha.

Decatron: Playing Chinatown on the DS. Man selling drugs has never been so much fun.

May 8, 2009
caropoiro: part dans le Chinatown pour partir au Japon

sashatong: Awesome If: my Popo (grandmother) would join Twitter! Miss her daily Honolulu Chinatown bargaining advice/ tasting /gossip report!

medebe: Preparando maleta para San Francisco; esta tarde a cenar con mi señora por Chinatown, mañana, gira turistica de la ciudad y…Chente!

carlmcdade: Growing up in Oakland Ca and going to school in the Chinatown district I had one big wish. Learn Mandarin Chinese. Is it too late?

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