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Katie Gee Salisbury
Photo by Trung Thanh on Unsplash

Junior year of college I spent six months studying abroad at Oxford University. Looking back on that time in my life brings back many wonderful memories. It was a charmed existence. I lived in a house with thirty or so other college students and watched the English garden in our backyard bloom from my window that spring.

During the week, a few staff and faculty members also worked out of the house and managed operations for the program. The woman at the front desk was a grad student in the Chinese department who spoke flawless Mandarin. I felt sheepish conversing…

Clipping of a movie magazine article on Anna May Wong titled “Between Two Worlds”
clipping from the July 1932 issue of the New Movie magazine

Researching the life of Anna May Wong and reading through articles, reviews, and interviews published nearly a hundred years ago, I frequently stumble upon turns of phrase and blithe assertions of fact that would never be uttered out loud today, let alone immortalized in print (although then again…). An occupational hazard, I suppose. The headlines alone are a case study in racial cliches not to use in 2021:

A Chinese Puzzle

Between Two Worlds

Velly Muchee Lonely

The China Doll

Where East Meets West

Anna May Wong Sorry She Cannot Be Kissed

A Lone Lotus

Coming across off-color comments in…

a progress report on the book-writing process

endnotes from Graham Russell Gao Hodges’ book on Anna May Wong

During senior year of college there was one task that dogged me persistently: writing my honors thesis. Every time I hung out with friends or went for a long winding drive on the backroads around campus, a momentary thought of the thing I was supposed to be doing would inevitably flit across my mind and pangs of anxiety and panic would resume gnawing at my nerves.

In what I thought was a brilliant and cheeky move, I took a piece of blank printer paper and wrote on it in block letters, “What is your thesis?” I taped my DIY-sign to…

Tangled Thoughts on the Atlanta Shootings

black and white photo of the crowd at a rally to Stop Asian Hate in Columbus Park, Chinatown, NYC; Bowen Yang stands underneath a protest sign that reads “I’m not a model anything.”
Bowen Yang among the crowd at the Rally Against Hate on March 21, 2021, Columbus Park, Chinatown, NYC

I heard the news of the Atlanta shootings while watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. The first words out of her mouth were that 7 people had been killed by a gunman in Atlanta. I held my breath and waited for the other shoe to drop — somehow I knew instinctively that this was not your average mass shooting event (as much as it disturbs me to call any mass shooting and the loss of life it causes “average,” the reality of living in the United States of America today is that mass shootings have become commonplace occurrences). Maybe I had…

Poster for the Fu Manchu flick Daughter of the Dragon (1931).

Something Mel Guo, my research assistant, said a few newsletters ago has been replaying in my head. She wrote that discovering Anna May Wong was a kind of revelation that made her want to honor AMW’s “unfulfilled potential.” She echoed a yearning that I have long harbored: “I want to see the movies that Anna May Wong would have played, produced, and directed; the stories she would have told.”

Usually, when people learn the basic outline of AMW’s life, their first reaction is — “Oh, how tragic!” Her career undoubtedly suffered because of pervasive racism and sexism in Hollywood. This…

I’m referring, of course, to the word “miscegenation.” It’s one that comes up fairly often in my research on Anna May Wong. For the uninitiated, Merriam-Webster defines miscegenation as “a mixture of races,” especially when referring to “marriage, cohabitation, or sexual intercourse between a white person and a member of another race.”

Anna May Wong was born and lived in California, where mestizo culture once flourished under Spanish rule. Although Spanish society was ruled by a racial caste system, it afforded space for mixed unions and their offspring. When California was inducted into the Union in 1850, anti-miscegenation laws were…

a neon “hand laundry” sign glows in the window of a laundry above a rack of hanging shirts wrapped in plastic
a laundry on the Upper East Side, NYC, 2015 (taken by the author)

Small businesses have long been the bastion of first-generation immigrants starting out in America and hoping to build a life here. There was a time when Chinese laundries were as common as the corner bodega or mini-mart. Once industrial washing machines came along, though, many hand laundries went the way of the dinosaurs. In their place a new business sprung up: Chinese takeouts.

Oftentimes trends like this have a lot to do with migration patterns and how networks of immigrants leverage resources. …

My favorite photo of Anna May Wong

It started with a photograph. Black and white, developed from film, an artifact of the era it came from.

The photo itself was nothing special, most likely snapped by a dispassionate photojournalist assigned to capture another parade in Chinatown. However, it was remarkable in one way. In it, sitting next to two other dignitaries in the backseat of a convertible was Anna May Wong. Hollywood’s first Asian American movie star.

A split-second gaze at this photo as an impressionable 19-year-old was enough to reel me in and bond me to Anna May Wong for life (at least it seems that…

“We dry and die in the sun / While the seascape arranges old fruit, / Coming in and the tide, glistening / At noon.” — Weldon Kees

The dog days of summer have nearly come and gone, but there are a few weeks left to catch those last rays of summer sunshine if you’re still daydreaming of a beach day from your air-conditioned office cubicle.

Let me make a recommendation: Brighton Beach.

In ninth grade I watched a high school production of Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs. Back then I had only an inkling of the place — that it was somewhere faraway and down on its luck, undesirable to a kid going through those awkward adolescent years. …

The reviews you’ve read are true. La La Land is magical, a two-hour time-lapse in a Los Angeles seen through rose-colored glasses, where all the city’s landmarks come alive in the lovely haze of twilight. It would seem that a nostalgia-steeped, cotton candy musical is just what the doctor ordered to stave off the gloom of an incredibly shitty year.

We can’t seem to catch a break. And neither can Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), the star-crossed lovers at the heart of director Damien Chazelle’s Technicolor triumph. She is an aspiring actress-turned-playwright; he is a jazz pianist who…

Katie Gee Salisbury

My writing and photography has appeared in The Ringer, VICE, Roads & Kingdoms, The Margins, and elsewhere. I’m currently at work on a book about Anna May Wong.

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