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Winter Author Series: An Evening with Julia Flynn Siler
November 13, 2019 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Beginning in 1874, the Occidental Mission Home on the edge of San Francisco’s Chinatown served as a gateway to freedom for thousands of enslaved and vulnerable young Chinese women and girls. Led by the fearless Donaldina Cameron, a courageous group of female abolitionists fought the slave trade in Chinese women, survived earthquakes (when their house was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, Miss Cameron brought the girls to the SFTS campus to seek safety, before moving on to San Rafael while their house was rebuilt), fire, bubonic plague, and violence directed against its occupants and supporters. With compassion and an investigative historian’s sharp eye, Siler tells the story of both the abolitionists who challenged the corrosive anti-Chinese prejudices of the time and the young women who dared to flee their fate. She relates how the women who ran the home defied contemporary convention–even occasionally breaking the law–by physically rescuing children from the brothels where they worked or by snatching them off ships as they were being smuggled in–and how they helped bring the exploiters to justice. She also shares the moving stories of many of the girls and young women who sought refuge at the mission, and she writes about the lives they went on to lead. This is a remarkable chapter in an overlooked part of our history, told with sympathy and vigor.
Siler’s previous book is Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure. Her first book, The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty, was a finalist for a James Beard Award and a Gerald Loeb Award for distinguished reporting. A veteran journalist, Siler is a longtime contributor and former staff writer for The Wall Street Journal and has been a guest commentator on CNBC, CNN, and the BBC. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their two sons.
“A solid introduction to an inspiring and, yes, heroic struggle against a barbaric practice . . . Siler has provided a usefully broad view of the fight against slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown, one especially effective in giving voice to previously underappreciated figures.” —Gary Kamiya, The New York Times Book Review
Author photo credit: Abigayle Tarches