“I went to a high school in northern California, up in the foothills near where gold was discovered in a little town called Auburn, and one thing I remember is that we didn’t really have any kind of world history.” Those are the first memories of the historian Charlotte Brooks about her profession.
Further, when it comes to her area of specialization—the history of Asians in America—her beginnings are even more modest. “Growing up in the gold rush country, I saw the old Chinese immigrant markers on the land and on the buildings everywhere. I knew my town had been a big center of Japanese immigration. Japanese-Americans were moved in 1942, and most of them never returned because of racist agitation. But nobody talked about it. When I went to college, I tried to take courses to remedy what I felt was my awful lack of knowledge about anything besides U.S. history, and I really got hooked on China.”