Not Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong (Hardcover)

Not Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong By Katie Gee Salisbury Cover Image
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“Enlightening, nuanced, and honest.”—Lisa See

Set against the glittering backdrop of Los Angeles during the gin-soaked Jazz Age and the rise of Hollywood, this debut book celebrates Anna May Wong, the first Asian American movie star, to bring an unsung heroine to light and reclaim her place in cinema history.

One of Entertainment Weekly's "Books We Are Excited to Read in 2024"
Before Constance Wu, Sandra Oh, Awkwafina, or Lucy Liu, there was Anna May Wong. In her time, she was a legendary beauty, witty conversationalist, and fashion icon. Plucked from her family’s laundry business in Los Angeles, Anna May Wong rose to stardom in Douglas Fairbanks’s blockbuster The Thief of Bagdad. Fans and the press clamored to see more of this unlikely actress, but when Hollywood repeatedly cast her in stereotypical roles, she headed abroad in protest.
Anna May starred in acclaimed films in Berlin, Paris, and London. She dazzled royalty and heads of state across several nations, leaving trails of suitors in her wake. She returned to challenge Hollywood at its own game by speaking out about the industry’s blatant racism. She used her new stature to move away from her typecasting as the China doll or dragon lady, and worked to reshape Asian American representation in film.
Filled with stories of capricious directors and admiring costars, glamorous parties and far-flung love affairs, Not Your China Doll showcases the vibrant, radical life of a groundbreaking artist.

About the Author

Katie Gee Salisbury has spoken and written about Anna May Wong on MSNBC, in the New York Times, and in Vanity Fair. She also writes the newsletter "Half-Caste Woman." She was a 2021 Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship finalist and gave the TED Talk “As American as Chop Suey.” A fifth-generation Chinese American from Southern California, she now lives in Brooklyn. Not Your China Doll is her first book.

Praise For…

“[A] fast-paced, thoroughly researched biography. Salisbury, who has written and spoken widely on the Chinese-American experience and who grew up not far from Wong’s stomping grounds in southern California, is the ideal author to guide us through the actor’s life. She effectively leverages her personal experience with systemic injustice, as well as her wide-ranging knowledge of Hollywood and cinema, to give Wong the biography that she has long deserved but unfortunately has not yet received.”The Guardian

“A well-researched, thoughtful portrait of a groundbreaking woman whose ambition and artistic integrity far exceeded the limitations and challenges of her lifetime.”—Entertainment Weekly's "Books We Are Excited to Read in 2024"

“A rich biography... The Wong who emerges from Salisbury’s lively and admiring account, however, is a character who brimmed with resilience, intelligence and wit.”The Telegraph, five star review

“[A] splendidly entertaining biography... Not Your China Doll is an intelligent study, acutely sympathetic to Wong.”The Times, Book of the week

“Author Salisbury tells the trailblazer’s [Anna May Wong's] tale in this definitive biography, packed with sizzling stories from film sets and decadent parties. Set against a backdrop of jazz-era Los Angeles, the result is a frank and sprightly account of the star’s life and legacy.”Total Film Magazine

“Evocative language and vivid details of old Hollywood distinguish this lively biography of Anna May Wong… rendered in energetic prose backed up by devoted research.”The San Francisco Chronicle Datebook

“Salisbury’s talent as a biographer shines through not only from her thorough research, which leaves no gaps in Anna May’s story, but also in the way she gets into her characters’ thoughts.”—Asian Review of Books

“In her fascinating new book Not Your China Doll, author Katie Gee Salisbury tells of the rise and fall, with several reinventions in between, of Hollywood’s first Chinese American star.”—New York Journal of Books

“I was truly thrilled when I found out about Katie Gee Salisbury’s new book — not just because it gives Wong the book-length treatment her storied and complicated career deserves, but because it’s really f*cking good.”—Anne Helen Petersen, Culture Study

“An engaging biography.”—Spectrum Culture

“A fiercely readable, meticulously researched and entertaining account with a serious journalistic foundation, intent on reclaiming the legacy of Anna May Wong.”—China Books Review

“[Anna May] Wong became the toast of Europe, brought global attention to Japan’s atrocities in China, and was the first Asian American to land her own TV series. Salisbury renders her epic life with flair.”—Hui Fei, CultureWag

One of Autostraddle's Most Anticipated Queer Books for Spring 2024
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"Here at last is a biography of a groundbreaking and inspiring woman that is well-researched, thoughtful, enlightening, nuanced, and honest. The access Salisbury had to Anna May Wong’s family and friends places this biography above all others.”—Lisa See, New York Times bestselling author of Lady Tan’s Circle of Women

“History has long neglected the wild and inspiring story of Anna May Wong, a taboo-smashing star whose career left an indelible mark on Hollywood. With impeccable research and eloquent prose, Katie Gee Salisbury captures not only Wong’s grand ambition and delicious swagger, but also the significant challenges and prejudices she faced during her career. Not Your China Doll is sure to enthrall anyone fascinated by audacious, before-their-time women.”—Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of The Ghosts of Eden Park

“Anna May Wong was a trailblazer who continues to inspire generations of actors, and she truly comes to life in this irresistible read. Her story navigating stardom in the early days of Hollywood is dazzling, and her resilience opened doors for the many who came after her.”—Simu Liu, actor and New York Times bestselling author of We Were Dreamers

“Katie Gee Salisbury has restored Anna May Wong to her rightful place in Hollywood history and done it with great panache.  A must-read for anyone interested in popular culture and women’s history.”—Laurence Leamer, New York Times bestselling author of Capote’s Women and Hitchcock’s Blondes
"Generations before diversity and inclusion became cultural buzzwords, Anna May Wong blazed a trail—with passion and style. Katie Gee Salisbury's vivid biography of the first Asian American movie star is not only a fun, transporting trip to a golden age, but also a contemporary consideration of why Anna May Wong still matters. Not Your China Doll is a must read, for anyone who loves pop culture or cares about representation in Hollywood."—Phil Yu, founder of Angry Asian Man and coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Rise

Not Your China Doll is a remarkable biography, bursting with life on every page. Carefully crafted and meticulously researched, Katie Gee Salisbury’s beautifully woven portrait of Anna May Wong is both illuminating and entirely unforgettable.”—Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Devil in the Grove

Not Your China Doll is the book I’ve always wanted to read. Anna May Wong finally gets the starring role she deserves.”—Carla Valderrama, author of This Was Hollywood

“This compelling account of Anna May Wong’s life and career as a film star is hard to put down... Salisbury is a skilled storyteller, seamlessly interweaving historical context, behind-the-scenes Hollywood anecdotes, and forthright takes on the social milieu of the time... A thoroughly researched and superbly written study of a remarkable woman. An important addition to film history and cultural studies collections.”—Library Journal, starred review

“A spirited biography... a rousing testament to Wong's talents.”—Publishers Weekly

“Salisbury brings the life and career of this legendary film actor into sharp, immediate focus in a vibrant biography that celebrates Wong’s tenacity and commitment to her race and culture.”—Booklist
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593183984
ISBN-10: 0593183983
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: March 12th, 2024
Pages: 480
Language: English