Early film actress Anna May Wong should have been a marquee name on a par with her co-stars, like Douglas Fairbanks and Marlene Dietrich; her star power far outshone the limited roles that Hollywood offered her.
Bay Area author Gail Tsukiyama explores the story of Wong, the first Chinese American film star, in her new book "The Brightest Star," published last week. She will discuss the book June 27 at Kepler's Books. The novel is historical fiction, told from Wong's point of view, as toward the end of her life, she looks back on her childhood in Los Angeles, the four decades of her career and the many challenges she tackled.
Despite standout performances in several films in the early 1920s, before she was even 20 years old, racist laws and casting practices kept Wong out of leading roles. White actresses would be cast as Asian lead characters while the supporting roles Wong was offered often leaned on offensive stereotypes, which she challenged.
Tsukiyama's other books include "The Color of Air," "Women of the Silk" and "The Samurai's Garden" and she has also taught at San Francisco State University, University of California, Berkeley and Mills College. She appears at Kepler's in conversation with Kepler's Literary Foundation in-house journalist Angie Coiro to discuss "The Brightest Star."
June 27, 7 p.m. at Kepler's Books, 1010 El Camino Real #100, Menlo Park. Tickets are $36 (includes a copy of "The Brightest Star") and $5-$15 (no book). keplers.org.