In Conversation with Maureen Fan
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. Run by a courageous group of female abolitionists who fought the slave trade in Chinese women, it survived earthquakes, fire, bubonic plague, and violence directed against its occupants and supporters. With compassion and an investigative historian's sharp eye, Julia Flynn 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. The White Devil's Daughters is a remarkable chapter in an overlooked part of our history, told with sympathy and vigor.
Julia Flynn Siler is a New York Times best-selling author and journalist. Her most recent 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.
Maureen Fan is the former Washington Post bureau chief in Beijing.