Introduction

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek fans. Copyright Los Angeles Public Library - Harry Quillen Collection. All Rights Reserved.

There was a time in American history where the “average American” had never met an “average Chinese,” but had “clear images of him” nonetheless.[1] It was in the midst of these dueling perceptions of the Chinese American identity that young women, such as Bessie Loo, Louise Larson, and Marian Leng, were experiencing unique life challenges that helped them to create a clear perception of themselves that took into account the American ideals of the 1930s and 1940s as well as their own Chinese cultural upbringing.

This section will examine the impact of the local, national, and global sociopolitical circumstances of the 1930s and 1940s that impacted Chinese Americans and then subsequently impacted Los Angeles Chinatown.[2] Close attention will be paid to the conflict between the Chinese identity and the American culture that influenced each individual’s life. Particular interest will also be given to larger national and global events, such as the Great Depression and World War II, which shaped the experiences of these young women’s lives.


[1] Ronald Knapp, “China perceived, perceiving China: American myths and realities of the People’s Republic,” in East Asia: Geographical and Historical Approaches to Foreign Area Studies(Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Press, 1982), 157-167.

[2] Ibid.

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