navigate

writer

JD

Browse Posts

FEATURED

SEARCH

find me elsewhere:

Hi there! Welcome to my journal, where I share the latest about my writing and wanderings. Stay a while and say hello!

Hi, I'm jasmin.

arrow

open post

If ever a city and a man were made for each other, it was San Francisco and Sadakichi Hartmann. Like the character he played in the 1924 film The Thief of Baghdad, Hartmann was a kind of court magician to successive bohemian circles all over the world. In The Bohemians, he amuses and mystifies a […]

The King of Bohemia: Sadakichi Hartmann’s San Francisco Sojourn

July 21, 2021

arrow

open post

When he was a San Franciscan, Maynard Dixon strode through the streets each morning in a tailored black suit, black Stetson hat, and black cape. He was tall and very slender, with a long face, blue eyes, and blue-black hair. “Walks like a deer,” someone once observed, which would have been true if deer went […]

The Last Cowboy in San Francisco

July 1, 2021

arrow

open post

Make it fiction, but keep it true—that’s a credo that helps guide me when I’m writing. When I was composing Caroline Lee’s character in The Bohemians, I drew on the stories of Edith and Winnifred Eaton, two real-life women (and real-life sisters!) to help me understand the experience of mixed-race women in the early years […]

A Tale of Two Sisters

June 15, 2021

arrow

open post

By force of time, but also immigration, my family’s lost many things. Some we’ve thrown away. But photographs, never. Ten years ago, when my mother began her descent into dementia, I became the custodian of the family photographs. I’ve boxed them up and taken them wherever I move, the way the ancients traveled with their […]

On Finding My Grandmother’s Portrait

June 3, 2021

arrow

open post

“Pretty Women Motorists Arrive After Trip Across the Continent,” read the San Francisco Chronicle headline in August 1909. The article referred to a group led by twenty-two-year-old Alice Huyler Ramsey, the first woman to drive across the country. Just a few months earlier, Ramsey’s driving skills had caught the attention of a representative from the […]

The Lady Motorist

May 12, 2021

arrow

open post

“San Francisco is very beautiful,” a 23-year-old Frida Kahlo wrote to her mother in the autumn of 1930. “Our way here was also very beautiful. For the first time I got to see the Ocean, and I loved it! The city is in a beautiful location, from everywhere you can see the sea. The bay […]

Frida in the City

April 24, 2021

arrow

open post

Note: This essay was originally published on Literary Hub. When I moved back to the Bay Area, where I’d grown up, in 2013, I could barely recognize whole swaths of San Francisco anymore, but one part of it, North Beach, was almost exactly the same. More than ever, spending time there had the feeling of […]

How Dorothea Nutzhorn Chased the Promise of Possibility and Became Dorothea Lange

April 10, 2021

arrow

open post

Note: This essay originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Marin Magazine. There are places that happen to you and places you choose. For photographer Dorothea Lange, California was both. She was 23 years old when she left her native New Jersey and arrived in San Francisco. The year was 1918 and she thought she […]

Where She Felt Free

April 3, 2021

arrow

open post

“She knew what it was to be invisible, and she knew what it was to be too visible.” Writing Caroline’s character in THE BOHEMIANS was a pleasure—and also a challenge. As a mixed-race woman (the genteel term then was “Eurasian”), just stepping into the street in 1918 would have been a fraught experience for her, […]

With Each Step To Say, I Am Here

March 31, 2021

arrow

open post

In 1919, a seventeen-year-old San Francisco boy fell seriously ill. The second, and deadliest, wave of the Spanish Flu had reached the City. It struck down the young with particular cruelty. The boy had always been a bit different–restless and fidgety and given to long rambles on Baker Beach and through the Presidio, but now, […]

Faith, Temple, Calling

March 29, 2021

arrow

open post

Here’s one more item to add to your list of San Francisco originals: Taxi Dancers. In 1913, San Francisco enacted new laws that forbade dancing in any cafe or saloon where alcohol was served. Enterprising folks came up with a scheme called the “closed dance hall” by which (to use today’s language) they “rebranded” their […]

How Much for a Dance?

March 23, 2021

arrow

open post

“She was a terribly attractive, dashing kind of gal.” So said Dorothea Lange about her friend and fellow photographer, Consuelo Kanaga (1894-1976). One of the many amazing women Lange met when she came to San Francisco in 1918, Kanaga was the first woman newspaper photographer Lange had ever met, and she was totally bowled over […]

The “Dasher”

March 9, 2021

arrow

open post

He arrived in San Francisco wearing a white sombrero, black velvet coat and velvet waistcoat, and a pair of pointy shoes. It was the spring of 1882. Oscar Wilde was twenty-seven years old, not yet a well-known writer but already a style icon and terrific wit. By the time he arrived at the ferry crossing […]

Wilde About San Francisco

March 1, 2021

arrow

open post

And on the Thousand and Second Night, Paris became Persia. One evening in June of 1911, Paul Poiret, the “King of Fashion,” appeared before 300 members of the city’s creme de la creme. He was dressed in full-on sultan’s garb. On his head, he’d placed a bejeweled and beplumed turban. The evening’s “Persian” amusements culminated […]

When Paris Was Persian

February 24, 2021

arrow

open post

It’s the sound of “the jungles in the dead of night.” It “lures white women” into sex and sin. It’s the sound of “civilization” dying—and a new country becoming. It’s 1920. The first war’s just ended. Black jazz musicians are migrating from New Orleans to major northern cities such as Chicago and New York. Nearly […]

Who Put the “Jazz” in “The Jazz Age”?

February 13, 2021

arrow

open post

Did you know Sophia Loren once played me in a movie? Okay, she actually played a Middle Eastern temptress named Yasmin Azir in a 1966 film called Arabesque, but hear me out. Over the weekend I watched the wonderful new short documentary “What Would Sophia Loren Do?” on Netflix and it got me thinking about […]

Sophia Loren C’est Moi

February 9, 2021

arrow

open post

Imagine it’s 1954 and you’re walking around San Francisco and suddenly there she is: Miss Marilyn Monroe. When you (somehow! finally!) manage to tear your eyes away, you see that the man walking beside her is the City’s own golden-boy/son-of-a-Sicilian-fisherman-turned-all-American legend, Joe DiMaggio. And then it comes to you, that front-page story in the Chronicle, […]

Marilyn’s San Francisco

January 27, 2021

arrow

open post

Once upon a time, San Francisco had its own Harlem, and this Harlem had a queen. A “fast-talking,” “show-me-what-you-can-do” woman, one-part glamour and a million parts grit. Her name was Leola King and she got her start running a barbeque pit at 1601 Geary Street. An homage to King’s native Oklahoma, it was built out […]

The Queen of San Francisco’s Once-Upon-A-Time Harlem

January 23, 2021

arrow

open post

Shahs, dervishes, harem women, society ladies, clerics, villagers, and tribesmen—Antoin Sevruguin’s photographs make up a rare and stunning catalog of Iranian life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Tehran to Armenian parents sometime in the 1830s-1840s, Sevruguin spoke a half dozen languages and fell in easily with all sorts of people. […]

The Beautiful Lost Worlds of Antoin Sevruguin

January 19, 2021

arrow

open post

Theda Bara and the Lasting Legacy of the Deep Red Lip Vamp. Anyone remember the super dark lipstick trend from the 90s? Well, did you know the look traces its origins to a Jewish girl from Ohio who was turned into a sexy vampire? When Theodosia Burr Goodman turned up at Fox Studios for a […]

The Lady Was a Vamp

January 11, 2021