The first Asian American movie star in Hollywood has long been misinterpreted. A recent book aims to alter that

Katie Gee Salisbury saw a picture roughly twenty years ago that she would remember for a long time. The monochrome picture showed a sea of parade participants encircling a convertible. A sleek and gorgeous Chinese American woman was seated in the back seat. Salisbury was enthralled with the woman right away. He is a fifth generation Chinese American with rich connections in Chinatown, Los Angeles. On her first day as an intern at the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles, a curator informed her that she would be studying Anna May Wong, the well-known actress from the 1920s and 1930s who is credited as being the first Asian American movie star in Hollywood history.

Salisbury remarks, “I wanted to know more about this woman.” “I was shocked that no one had ever informed me about her.” Salisbury’s latest book, “Not Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong,” was finally sparked by that picture and was released on March 12. Salisbury freely acknowledges that she is not the first to document Wong’s life and accomplishments. However, she believed that while other histories of the actress made significant contributions to the understanding of Wong’s life, they fell short in certain areas.

She continues, “I always felt that they were missing the perspective of an Asian American woman because a lot of them are written by academics or by men.” Salisbury claims that previous biographers portrayed Wong as a tragic person, exaggerating stories about her sexual orientation, her battles with drinking, and her choice to never get married. With “Not Your China Doll,” Salisbury aimed to present an alternative narrative. Wong’s life was undoubtedly difficult; due to Hollywood’s bigotry, she was much too frequently cast in clich├ęd supporting roles and turned down for numerous roles in favor of White performers wearing yellowface.

However, as Salisbury notes, she also experienced a great deal of success. Her lead role as Madame Liu-Tsong’s title character on TV was the first for an Asian American. In addition to winning over critics and viewers, the trailblazing singer ultimately paved her own way in an otherwise discriminatory field. Salisbury discussed how Hollywood has evolved since Wong’s day, how Wong resisted stereotypes about Asian women, and how her own Asian American identity influenced the book in an interview with CNN. The duration and clarity of this chat have been adjusted. I work in a rather special position. My Chinese American family has lived in this nation for five generations, on the one hand. There was kinship there simply by virtue of our shared southern Chinese immigration history with Anna May Wong’s family.

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