Learning more about the people who built the foundation for my family and many others who made Boston their home. As more recent immigrants, it can be hard to wrap your head around the fact that your history doesn’t just begin when your own family arrived – there were the pioneers who struggled so that others coming after would struggle a little less.

This book is an historical photo album and I spent a lot of time toggling between the photos of locations with Google Maps of what the current locations are for context. I guess you could say that this book is interactive.

Other interesting photos were of an all female lion dance troupe from 1938 which, as a fellow lion dancer, I found to be thrilling.

And, even more mind blowing to me was realizing that the English equivalents of names and food menu items were taken from the Toishanese pronunication – not Cantonese. It makes so much sense now why a name like Hip Yeng Chong works.

My only criticism is I wish there had been a map and even more photos. Regardless, this is definitely a must read for Asian American history.

Chinese Americans in Boston trace their historical origins to pioneering settlements of merchants, workers, and students in different parts of New England. After the 1880s, hundreds of Chinese arrived in Boston. Beginning as a bachelor male-dominated society, the Chinese in Boston gradually developed stronger bonds of family and community life. Spared natural disasters that characterized the Chinese immigrant experience in the West, Boston's Chinatown nonetheless faced challenges of urban renewal and environmental degradation. Through their participation in community organizations, merchant activities, educational opportunities, and civic protests, the Chinese in Boston persevered, simultaneously maintaining their Chinese identity and acculturating into America. They formed a close-knit community that distinguished Boston's Chinatown as one of the oldest and most enduring Chinese neighborhoods on the East Coast.

First published February 4, 2008

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