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November 19, 2012

Author Celebrates Los Angeles Chinatown

by Mike O'Sullivan

The author Lisa See has written about the Chinese-American experience in bestselling novels like Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy.  See's family has deep roots in Los Angeles, and her recent books have been partly set in the city's Chinatown.  
 
With her red hair and freckles, Lisa See looks Caucasian. But she's one-eighth Chinese and is part of an extended Chinese-American family.  She's at home as she strolls through Chinatown's neighborhoods and temples.
 
Her great-grandfather, Fong See, helped establish Chinatown. His story is told in her first book, On Gold Mountain. “The first book was about my family and I think that set me on a course," she said.
 
See's later books have explored Chinese culture in China as well as America.
 
She often visits her cousins in Chinatown. Today, she stopped by an antique shop that has long been in her family.
 
She says this city has atracted successive generations of Chinese immigrants.

“And now today, in Los Angeles, we do have the largest Chinese-American community in the United States," she said. 
 
Many immigrants have  moved to the suburbs in the San Gabriel Valley.  That area is now home to many Asian American businesses.
 
But See says Chinatown still has a special flavor and draws immigrants from all over Asia.  She says they come for the same reasons that earlier immigrants came. 
 
“”We all have someone in our families who was scared enough, brave enough, crazy enough to leave their home country and come here,"she said. 
 
Lisa See says she'll tell more immigrant tales in her future novels.