Q&A: Brothers' book offers historical images of Sacramento's Chinatown

11/05/2012 12:00 AM

11/04/2012 11:51 PM

Brothers Lawrence and Brian Tom spoke to an audience at California State University, Sacramento, last week about their book, "Sacramento's Chinatown," as part of the university's fall Author Lecture Series.

Published in 2010, the book is one of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series, which chronicles the history of small communities through vintage photography.

Brian Tom graduated from the University of California, Davis, and founded the university's Asian American Studies program in 1969. He also founded the Chinese American Museum of Northern California in Marysville in 2007, and serves as the museum director. Lawrence Tom is the tour director of the museum.

The brothers answered questions about the book, which is available in some bookstores and through Amazon.com, in a phone interview with The Bee.

>What is your book about?

The pages of "Sacramento Chinatown" are filled with photographs that tell the stories of the Chinese families who settled in the Sacramento area in the 1850s. The photographs are frozen in time and cannot be manipulated; therefore, they give a true representation of Chinese American history. The layout of the images was done in a way that tells a story of the early evolution of Sacramento's Chinatown through its first settlers in the 1850s, to the redevelopment of Sacramento which destroyed parts of Chinatown, and highlights of the present-day accomplishments in the community.

>Who are the stories in your book about?

During the Gold Rush, 80 percent of Chinese immigrants came from three provinces of southern China. The book represents the many families who were part of that community that made up Sacramento's Chinatown. There is a chapter in the book that focuses on the Chinese Americans who served in the military and another chapter which focuses on Chinese politicians who have emerged from Sacramento, as well as other accomplished members of the community. Many Chinese organizations that are trying to preserve our culture are also featured in the book. Family church and sports activities, and social events, are also highlighted through the photographs.

>Where did you get the photographs for the book?

Some research was done at libraries and historical centers, but most photographs came from individuals and the photographs of their parents and grandparents. Over 1,500 photographs were collected during the project, but the challenging part was restricting the collection to only 128 pages at the request of the publisher.

>Do you plan on writing anymore books about the Chinese American culture?

We are currently working with Arcadia Publishing to write another book that is scheduled to come out in May of 2013. This book is going to focus on the thousands of Chinese Americans who populated the areas of the Delta and established a large farming community. The city of Locke, which is in the Delta, was built as an all-Chinese town, and this book will focus on the Chinatowns from that region of California.

>Are you going to promote "Sacramento's Chinatown" anywhere else?

We have done over 40 talks or promotions of the book all over the Sacramento and surrounding areas since it was published in 2010. We are really on the tail end of the book tour with no more scheduled events, but we do plan on promoting our new book when it is published next year.

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