Hollywood's First Chinese American Star + Pronouns Lost in Translation

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Pioneering Asian-American actress Anna May Wong (left) poses with a cut rose. Wong's image will appear on the quarter this year; she is the first Asian-American to appear on U.S. currency. Emmett Chen-Ran (right) with his mother, Yanfei Ran, in China in 2001 or 2002. When Chen-Ran told his parents he is transgender in high school, he grappled with whether he should tell them in the language he knows best, English, or in their native Chinese. ((Courtesy of General Photographic Agency/Getty Images and Emmett Chen-Ran))

She Fought Racism in Early Hollywood. Now She'll Be the First Asian American on US Currency

The pioneering Asian American actress Anna May Wong is one of five American women the U.S. Mint is recognizing this year with an image on the American quarter, and the first Asian American to appear on U.S. currency. Wong was born in Los Angeles in 1905, and she grew up helping out at her father's laundromat. When the film industry moved from New York to Hollywood, she started skipping school to visit movie sets. She would eventually go on to become Hollywood’s first Chinese American movie star. Wong fought the ever-present obstacle of institutional racism in the film industry to forge a remarkable career that spanned 40 years. Host Sasha Khokha talks about Wong’s legacy with Nancy Wang Yeun, a sociologist and expert on race in Hollywood.

Lost in Translation

What is it like to talk about your gender identity in different languages? What happens when the pronouns for “he” and “she” in a particular language are similar, or even identical? We meet Emmett Chen-Ran, who decided during his senior year of high school to tell his parents he is transgender. While he grappled with whether they would accept and understand him, there was another challenge: deciding what language he should use to tell them – English or Chinese? The California Report Magazine’s former intern Izzy Bloom and reporter Elena Neale-Sacks bring us this story, which first aired on NPR’s Code Switch.

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