American 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.