Bonnie Tsui was born in Queens, New York, and raised on Long Island. As her parents met in a swimming pool in Hong Kong, it seemed fitting that she and her brother should then prepare for competitive swimming careers (which lasted a decade). She attended Harvard University, where she rowed novice crew, snowboarded, and graduated magna cum laude in English and American Literature and Language. She also lived in Australia, studying at the University of Sydney and writing for The Sydney Morning Herald, and won a Radcliffe Fellowship to New Zealand. She has raced in two triathlons, climbed Australia’s Mt. Arapiles, and nursed a mild obsession with girl soldiers who fought in the American Civil War — culminating in her women’s history book, She Went to the Field. Her next book, A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise, a collection of essays by writers 30 and under on finding a place in the natural world, was published in 2007. Her latest book, American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods, was published by Simon & Schuster’s Free Press in August 2009; a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and Best of 2009 Notable Bay Area Books selection, it won the 2009-2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.
In 2007, she was a winner of the Lowell Thomas Award for travel journalism. In June 2009, she received the Jane Rainie Opel Young Alumna Award at Harvard University, for “outstanding contribution to her profession.”
Bonnie has written for Let’s Go travel guides, worked as an editor at Travel + Leisure, and been a three-time performer at Pop-Up Magazine. A contributing writer for The Atlantic’s CityLab, she lives and surfs in the Bay Area and works at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. She is currently working on a collection of essays on swimming.
She also hopes, as Oliver Sacks writes in “Water Babies,” to “swim till I die.”
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Find her @bonnietsui.