Mahjong: A Chinese Game and the Making of Modern American Culture


Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
6.2 X 9.3 X 1.3 inches | 1.45 pounds

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About the Author

Annelise Heinz is an assistant professor of history at the University of Oregon. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio and international Chinese television. She has lived and played mahjong in the United States and Southwestern China.


What could have been presented as fun and therefore trivial, the game of mahjong, in the capable hands of Annelise Heinz, instead emerges as a serious matter in cross-cultural history, linking China and the United States. This book makes women's history, American Jewish history, and the history of class and leisure subjects that inform each other. Through deep research and clear writing, Heinz drives home the point that it is not just a game. -- Hasia Diner, New York University

In a work of dazzling richness and scope, Annelise Heinz reveals how multiracial makers, players, and marketers of mahjong negotiated and shaped social change in everyday life for a century. Comparing the rounds played by Chinese men detained at Angel Island with the tournaments held by Japanese Americans in World War II incarceration camps underscores the meanings of recreation in confinement. Evoking the delights of the game, this fascinating study also shows how Jewish women adapted mahjong, cultivating ties of female friendship and ethnic community, while also claiming Americanness and modernity. -- Valerie Matsumoto, University of California, Los Angeles

Annelise Heinz's Mahjong is a beautifully written, deeply researched history of mahjong. She examines the transnational history of this game and how it has moved across national, racial, cultural, and gendered boundaries while at the same reformulating and reinforcing some of these same borders. This is a history that combines the study of leisure with labor, consumption with performance, as well as race and ethnicity with class and gender. It offers fresh interpretations of modern America by focusing on the unlikely journey of a game. -- Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, author of Radicals on the Road

In this lively history, Annelise Heinz shows us that mahjong is more than a game. In her deft hands, it illuminates modern consumerism, Orientalist fantasy, ethnic identity, and women's self-fashioning across the twentieth century. A richly researched, happily readable book. -- Joanne Meyerowitz, author of How Sex Changed

An enjoyable and informative work that's highly recommended for any reader interested in the history of mahjong specifically or 20th-century U.S. cultural history generally.--Library Journal