"Just Us Girls: The Kim Loo Sisters"

Jacket of Just Us Girls
Jacket of Just Us Girls

I wrote Just Us Girls as the companion book to my feature-length documentary The Kim Loo Sisters. The goal of both the book and film is to present a vivid historical record and a moving memoir of a Chinese-American jazz vocal quartet popular in the first half of the 20th century. The Kimmies, as they were called -- Alice, Maggie, Jenée and Bubbles -- became the first Asian American act to star in Broadway musical revues.  Daughters of a Chinese “paper son” and a Polish seamstress, they broke through the bamboo ceiling to perform first in kiddie revues in and around their hometown of Minneapolis, then on vaudeville circuits around the country, and finally on the Broadway stage and Hollywood screen where they shared top billing with Frank Sinatra, The Three Stooges, Ann Miller and Jackie Gleason. When one of the sisters left the act to marry the son of the vice president of China and witnessed the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949) first-hand, her sisters -- dubbed “the Chinese Andrews Sisters” -- carried on as a trio and joined the USO to entertain American and Allied troops stationed in Europe during World War II. 

As the producer/director of the film and daughter of one of "The Kimmies," I feel their story connects me to my mother's and aunts' funny, feisty, thoughtful, and candid personalities, as well as the larger story of Chinese Americans in entertainment.

Place(s): China, New York, Minneapolis, Chicago, Hollywood, Broadway
Year: 1907

– Leslie Li, Author and Film Producer/Director

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant