The Poker Bride by Christopher Corbett

The Poker Bride tells the story of early Chinese immigrants to the United States, organized around the story of a woman, the bride who was, perhaps, won in a poker game, who came to San Francisco and onward to Idaho as an enslaved prostitute and who eventually married the saloon keeper and outlived him, still living in a wood cabin by a river, with no modern conveniences. I found the book compelling because the focus on Polly Bemis gives it an immediate human dimension, and also because much of the story focuses on the early and stupendous growth of San Francisco during the Gold Rush.

If you’re interested in Asian immigration to the US I would recommend another book, Strangers from a Different Shore by Ronald Takaki, which is more comprehensive and far-reaching — but without the focused human interest of the poker bride.

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