Forbidden City, USA:

Chinatown Nightclubs, 1936-1970

FC-book-combo-hardcover-2D“Put on some music from the 1930s and 1940s, start turning the pages of this remarkable volume, and step into the intoxicating and magical world of the Chinese American nightclub scene. Enjoy!”                  —From the foreword by LISA SEE
Bestselling author of China Dolls, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Dancer Lily Pon on the cover of a Forbidden City nightclub program. ca. 1940s

Forbidden City, USA:Chinatown Nightclubs, 1936-1970 captures the magic and glamour of the Chinatown nightclub scene, which peaked in San Francisco during World War II.

Inspired by the research for his documentary by the same name, filmmaker and writer Arthur Dong transformed previously unpublished personal stories, along with over four-hundred stunning images and rare artifacts, into a sexy and insightful chronicle of Asian American performers who defied racial and cultural barriers to pursue their showbiz dreams.

During the 1930s and ’40s, audiences flocked to nightclubs to escape the problems of the day with a cocktail and a show. Prohibition was repealed and the Great Depression was waning. With a global conflict on the rise, people were out to drink, dine, dance, and see a show to forget their woes — and what a surprise for the world to behold an emerging generation of Chinese American entertainers commanding the stage in their own nightclubs.

Singer Dudley Lee. ca. 1940s

Forbidden City, USA reveals the sassy, bold, and sometimes heartbreaking memories of dancers, singers, producers, and nightclub owners from a golden age of Chinatown nightclubs, as told in their own words.

Meet the “Chinese Sinatra,” the “Chinese Ginger Rogers,” the “Chinese Fred Astaire”, and delight in the true-life stories behind China Dolls, the bestselling novel by Lisa See, who provides an insightful foreword to the book. Woven throughout are vintage photos, postcards, menus, programs, and yes, even souvenir chopsticks. Together they recreate a forgotten era, taking readers on a dazzling tour of the old “Chop Suey Circuit.”

  • American Book Award
  • Art Deco Society Historic Preservation Award
  • Ippy Award, Independent Publishers