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Kathryn Wilson’s recent work traces the origin and (re)development of Philadelphia’s Chinatown from the late nineteenth century to the present. Despite its relatively small size, the neighborhood has survived decades of urban transitions, retaining a historic core while adapting to community needs. In addition to archival materials and newspapers, Wilson’s book draws heavily on oral interviews with local activists and personal observations of the neighborhood. As the author notes, Chinatown has long been a site in which the role of exotic “other” was consciously performed for outsiders. The presence of particular types of businesses such as laundries and restaurants helped fulfill that role. Yet the area has simultaneously served as a home for residents of Chinese and other Asian descent. The tension between these neighborhood roles put Chinatown in a precarious position as public officials and private developers reconfigured the Philadelphia landscape.
Pennsylvania History is the official journal of the Pennsylvania Historical Association, and copyright remains with PHA as the publisher of this journal.