San Francisco's Chinatown: Background information when reading China Dolls

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China Dolls

by Lisa See

China Dolls
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2014, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2015, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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Beyond the Book:
San Francisco's Chinatown

San Francisco's Chinatown (the setting of Lisa See's China Dolls) is the oldest in the United States, and the largest confluence of Chinese people and culture outside of Asia. In 2013, the San Francisco Planning Department announced that Chinatown is "the most densely populated urban area west of Manhattan" – some 15,000 residents live in just 20 square blocks. Although there are now four Chinatown areas in San Francisco, the main and original one, established in 1848, is located on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street. The Grant Avenue entrance is guarded by the Dragon Gate, erected in 1970, and the thoroughfare is lined with original 1920s streetlights shaped like golden dragons.

Chinatown's Dragon Gate Between the 1850s and 1900s, Chinatown was the only place in San Francisco where Chinese immigrants were allowed to open businesses or inherit property. The majority of inhabitants were male, often miners, railroad workers, shopkeepers, or restaurateurs. Immigrants were processed at a Western ...

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