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New Book on the History of Mahjong

Page updated May 21, 2021

Assistant professor Annelise Heinz has published a new book, Mahjong: A Chinese Game and the Making of Modern American Culture (Oxford University Press, 2021). This book explores a previously untold story of how the Chinese game mahjong was brought into American culture, including the changes it brought to the lives of American women.

Click-click-click. The sound of mahjong tiles connects American expatriates in Shanghai, Jazz Age white Americans, urban Chinese Americans in the 1930s, incarcerated Japanese Americans in wartime, Jewish American suburban mothers, and Air Force officers’ wives in the postwar era.

Heinz discusses this history in her article for The Wall Street Journal, “How Mahjong Became American.” She points out that the rising fad of mahjong actually coincided with a period of American nativism and, by the mid-20th century, even became “a hallmark of Jewish American culture.”

book cover


The Tablet: “How Mahjong Became American—and Jewish”

Jewish Book Council: “Bungalow Colonies and Mahjong Summers”


Learn more about the history of mahjong in America with one of these upcoming virtual events. Events are free and open to the public, but advance registration may be required.

May 27
5:00–6:00 p.m. PDT
Conversation with Katherine Marino of UCLA and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu of UC Irvine

June 3
10:00 a.m. PDT
OUP History Book Club, with Madeline Hsu

Interviews and Recorded Events

NPR 1A, A ‘Ton’ Of Fun: How Mahjong Became A U.S. Phenomenon”

Time Magazine, “What the Surprising History of Mah-johngg Can Teach Us About America”

Moment Magazine Zoominar, “Crack, Bam, Dot: The Sounds and Stories of Mahjong with Author Annelise Heinz and Moment Deputy Editor Sarah Breger”

Virtual Book Talk at Eldridge Street Museum, with a focus on New York City’s role

USF Asia-Pacific Center lecture, with a focus on Chinese American History

An informal conversation about mahjong’s history and research with “Modern Mahjong”

Virtual Lecture at University of San Francisco

Annelise Heinz

photo of Annelise Heinz

Annelise Heinz teaches at the University of Oregon’s Department of History, specializing on modern American history and the intersections of gender, race/ethnicity, and sexuality. Heinz is also the author of Mahjong: A Chinese Game and the Making of Modern American Culture (Oxford University Press, 2021). Learn more about Professor Heinz’s work: Department of History Faculty