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For generations of Chinese, "Shangri La" was a place they called Gold Mountain
on December 16, 2016
Superior tale of Chinese and Chinese-Americans in California from late 1800s railroad-building through four generations of struggle to the present day - an engaging historical account rendered delightfully personal through the stories Lisa tells in On Gold Mountain of her family history and her great grandfather Fong See and his journey to the West and sojourn on the gold mountain in Sacramento, San Francisco, and finally Los Angeles, where he founded a successful merchant dynasty and a family of many generations in and around mysterious Chinatown. Unique as a book written by one of several extraordinary "Caucasian" women who helped build businesses and make homes for their Chinese families. Many images of early Los Angeles and Hollywood linger after the final page - little Lisa retreating to her grandparents house in Chinatown, Anna Mae Wong holding court in the See family restaurant, antique furniture rented to the studios for films. Now when we watch those old black-and-white movies set in Chinatown from the 30s through the 40s we're on the lookout for sets created from the riches of the See family antique shops. We grew up visiting LA's Chinatown often but, after reading Lisa's book, it's no longer "just Chinatown, Jake," and is now a whole new marvelous place peopled with folks we now know much better, at least in memory.