Lai Ngan was smuggled into America at a tender age in the 1870s and sold into bondage. While still a teenage, she was married off to a Chinese man who was 35 years her senior. She fulfilled her duties as a loving mother to her children and a supportive wife. She followed her husband on his peripatetic journeys in search of a place where they could raise their children in a safe environment. She was an entrepreneur in her own right, contributing significantly to the family livelihood. In the end, she married her true love, only to have their union come to an unfortunate end. Lai Ngan’s story offers an example of one immigrant woman’s successful struggle to survive in the American Southwest.
Li is the recipient of the C.L. Sonnichson Award for best article in The Journal of Arizona History in 2011. She is an East Asian Studies specialist, historian and writer. Her writings include topics in Chinese history and Chinese-American History, and have appeared in The Journal of Arizona History and major magazines and newspapers in both Taiwan and mainland China. Li received her Ph.D. in East Asian Studies from University of Arizona (2004) and taught at the University of Arizona and Pima Community College. She also held a faculty position at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University as a researcher and educator. In addition to conducting her own research, Li has translated two books.