It all began because Amazon was out of a book.
After her aunt in Hong Kong died, Coloradan Mona Look Mazza and her sisters reached out to cousins in Hong Kong with condolences. Look Mazza and her sisters, who were raised in Los Angeles, had grown up visiting family in their parents’ native Hong Kong, but the aunt had been her father’s brother’s wife, and relations with their father’s side of the family, while always cordial, had never really been close.
The condolence note changed that.
“My cousin in Hong Kong wrote us back,” she says. “He was very touched we’d reached out, and we started corresponding. It awakened in us a real desire to learn more about dad’s side of the family.”
Though Look Mazza and her sisters were born in America, their parents were born and raised in Hong Kong. They’d met, and ultimately married, while attending college in the United States. But they were not the first in her family to make a life in this country.
Look Mazza had always been dimly aware that the forbears on her father’s side had lived in America, but reconnecting with her cousins in Hong King spurred her and her sister to learn more.
“We’d known that our great-great grandfather came over during the Gold Rush and lived in Mendocino,” she explains. “My sister did some research and found a book—The Chinese of the Mendocino Coast—on Amazon. I told her, ‘get me one too!’ but it was an obscure book and she’d gotten the last copy.” Undeterred, Look Mazza decided to call the book’s publisher—the Kelley House Museum in Mendocino.
She explained who she was and asked if she could possibly get another copy. Instead, she got much more. “They told me they knew exactly who my ancestors were, and there was quite an interesting bit of history with my great grandfather, Look Tin Eli.”