About Karen Kao Family ghosts Los Angeles


Montebello, California: once upon a time the home to Franciscan monks intent on Christianizing the local Indians. From ranchos to citrus farms to oil fields, Montebello is a microcosm of how Los Angeles developed. Even William Mulholland, the infamous water developer, had a hand in naming my hometown after its beautiful hills. Our hill In […]

Chinese-American Sexual harassment


Long ago, when I was young and sexy, guys would come on to me by confessing that they had a thing for Asian women. These guys were never Asian themselves. They were mostly white. They did not come from communities of color. To them, Asian women were exotic, exciting and, yes, inscrutable. I would of […]

China Hong Kong

The 36 stratagems

The 36 Stratagems is an ancient Chinese text. Like Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, it is a guide on military tactics. The 36 Strategems teaches us that deception is how to win a war. Supposedly, anyone in China (or raised in a Chinese household) would know this. Chinese children learn the 36 Stratagems the […]

Family ghosts

Auntie May

Auntie May was born in 1919 to the eldest son of a pearl merchant. The family home was close to Tai Lake in Zhejiang Province. Auntie May’s life was molded by an extraordinary period in Chinese history: the final death throes of the Qing dynasty, the rise of Shanghai as the Paris of the East […]