American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods

Free Press (Simon & Schuster)
August 2009

American Chinatown: A People's History of Five NeighborhoodsThis book examines the most famous American Chinatowns, in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Honolulu — fingers of land on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, key entry points for multiple generations of Chinese immigrants to the United States — and, looking forward, explores what is quite possibly the next generation of U.S. Chinatowns, in Las Vegas. Using these neighborhoods as a map, American Chinatown deals with the persistently enigmatic idea of Chinatown by serving up narrative epics of its own: stories and personal profiles that reveal modern-day realities and chronicle unexpected details of life to which readers don’t normally have access.

Visit the official companion website to the book.

Winner of the 2009 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature; a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and Best of 2009: 50 Notable Bay Area Books selection

NPR’s “Talk of the Nation”: “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.”

The New Yorker: “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 San Francisco Chronicle: “An updated real-life insider look… reinforces the importance of place for ethnic Chinese of all stripes — recent immigrants and generations of Chinese Americans alike.”

The Los Angeles Times: “Through reportage and research, [Tsui’s] book examines how each of these neighborhoods came to be and how their identities have evolved.”

Library Journal: “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.”

Evan Osnos, staff writer, The New Yorker: “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.”

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


A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise: 20 Young Writers on Finding a Place in the Natural World

Sierra Club Books/University of California Press
April 2007
Paperback: 312 pages

A Leaky Tent is a Piece of ParadiseWarning: This is not your parents’ nature writing! A distinctly contemporary take on the genre, A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise features original essays by twenty gifted writers, all 30 and under, whose strong and diverse voices redefine nature writing for the 21st century.

Editor Bonnie Tsui’s cast of accomplished contributors wrestle with integrating nature into daily life while putting down roots — often in urban environments. Included here are The New Yorker’s Andrea Walker on learning to hunt with her father; noted fishing author and painter James Prosek on the mythology and mystery of eels; writer Hugh Ryan on being taught how to pitch a tent by a six-foot-tall drag queen at a Radical Faeries camp in Tennessee; poet Cecily Parks on reconciling her adventuress self with her fear of lightning; and African-American journalist Alex Kellogg on rethinking his ideas about race and identity on a visit to Kenya and Eritrea.

Theirs and the other writings in this collection illuminate questions about self and place, belonging and rootlessness, and the meeting of created and natural landscapes. Brimming with insight and humor, A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise rewards us with new perspectives on personal identity in relation to nature, and on the impact of landscape and place on our lives.

Debut pick for REI’s brand-new book-of-the-month program, featured in REI stores across the country in May 2007.

Utne Reader: “Whether their leaky tents are set up in a suburban backyard, in a Brooklyn farmers’ market, or next to a mouthy drag queen, these writers illuminate the inevitable connection between geography and identity, and they zip open the doors to a whole new breed of nature writing.”

New York Magazine: “Contrary to popular fantasy, traveling to Montauk or Coney Island will not necessarily renew one’s bond with nature. For those looking for inspiration before a tan, there’s A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise.”

The Wall Street Journal: “Christine DeLucia, in ‘A Place for All Seasons,’ memorably tours Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass., and transcribes her melancholy reflections. On a different note, Hugh Ryan — in ‘Sissies in the Wood’ — recounts a rare camping moment, when a drag queen in four-inch heels teaches him all he needs to know about putting up a tent.”

Publishers Weekly: “Former magazine editor Tsui asked 20 writers aged 30 and under to reflect on ways in which they have connected with nature, and in this collection presents their original, often humorous answers… No matter what the approach, all the essays are imaginative and unusual, harbingers of what we may expect from nature writing as the last truly wild places disappear, and people have to take nature wherever they can find it.”

Audubon Magazine:A Leaky Tent might well inspire you to strap on a backpack, hit the road, and do some soul-searching of your own.”

Booklist: “Tsui has included essays about finding yourself, your parents, or your people, about struggling to change or refusing to compromise. An anthology that fairly bowls the reader over with its exuberance, this unusual collection shows just how welcoming the genre of nature writing is for talented new writers. Highly recommended.”

Backpacker: “Read the new anthology A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise. The 20 stories, all penned by writers 30 and younger, are full of surprises, humor, and insight into the meaningful experiences to be found in the outdoors.”

She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War

Globe Pequot Press
September 2003
Hardcover: 192 pages

She Went to the FieldThis volume profiles several substantiated cases of female soldiers during the American Civil War, including Sarah Rosetta Wakeman (a.k.a. Private Lyons Wakeman, Union); Sarah Emma Edmonds (a.k.a Private Frank Thompson, Union); Loreta Janeta Velazquez (a.k.a. Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, Confederate); and Jennie Hodgers (a.k.a. Private Albert D. J. Cashier, Union). Also featured are those women who may not have posed as male soldiers but who nonetheless pushed gender boundaries to act boldly in related military capacities, as spies, nurses, and vivandieres (“daughters of the regiment”) who bore the flag in battle, rallied troops, and cared for the wounded. While drawing from recent academic work, She Went to the Field is a lively text geared toward the general-audience reader.

Featured Book on, Harvard Magazine’s Off the Shelf, and The News & Observer’s Lifestyle section.

Publishers Weekly: “The dynamism with which women served among the ranks is well documented… Succeeds in stoking our desire to learn more about these brave women.”

Book News: “Shedding a new perspective on the women’s rights movement, this book follows the stories of several of these heroines, exploring why they fought, how they disguised their gender, and what it was like to be a woman in battle. Tsui also introduces a selection of women — including Harriet Tubman, Belle Boyd, and Clara Barton — who challenged gender roles off the battlefield in activities that included espionage and ferrying slaves to freedom. The book’s lively and engaging style will appeal to general readers.”