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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.

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He was a painter, she was a photographer. The year was 1920 and the place was San Francisco. They got married in her studio, took a four-day honeymoon, and settled into their first house. The house was a refugee shack, slapped together in a day in the weeks that followed the 1906 earthquake. The shacks […]

The Little House: A Love Story

November 21, 2021

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Hiding in plain sight all over Northern California, the Bruton sisters must be one of the art world’s best-kept secrets of the last century. Theirs is the story of three brilliant, prodigious artists who created art of exceptional beauty and enduring resonance; the story of three women who dared to trespass the boundaries of social […]

Now You See Them: The Fabulous Bruton Sisters

November 18, 2021

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She was feted atop the Great Pyramid in Egypt. She danced for the heads of state of nine countries. Duels were fought over her. Songs composed. A besotted Jack London immortalized her in literature. At the height of her career, she was one of the highest-paid entertainers of her day, introducing Spanish dance to audiences […]

Meet a Bohemian: Estrellita, the Spanish Dancer

October 24, 2021

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“I wanted to go and be free.” In the early 1900s, an original Bay Area Bohemian hightailed it to the High Sierras, where she tossed aside fussy Victorian dresses in favor of britches and boots, and spent her days climbing mountains with her dog Rory, a few of her women friends, and her camera and […]

Rebel With a Camera

October 11, 2021

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Recently I had a chance to talk with Anya Groner about The Bohemians. It was one of my all-time favorite interviews! You can read the full exchange here on the Ploughshares Blog. AG: I’ve always thought of Dorothea Lange as a working-class photographer, an impression garnered from her portraits taken during the Dust Bowl Migration […]

To Make the Unseen Seen: An Interview with Ploughshares

September 29, 2021

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Quick—what’s your image of a flapper? A young woman with bobbed hair slinking into a speakeasy, throwing back a cocktail and dancing the Charleston? You’d be right, but did you know she’d likely also be carrying a doll? It’s true. Along with all the other shenanigans for which the 1920s are now famous, the decade […]

Girls & Dolls

September 13, 2021

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“That year, every metropolitan city, from Paris to London, was caught in an Orientalist fever called Japonisme.” When Dorrie comes to San Francisco in The Bohemians, she’s startled by City’s embrace of all things Japanese, and wonders how it squares with the prejudice she sees against the Chinese. Like many of the most puzzling details […]

The Curious Tale of Bohemians, Kimonos, and “Japonisme”

August 12, 2021

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A force—there’s just no other way to describe her. How else can you account for the roster of guests Mabel Dodge Luhan drew to a remote New Mexican town in the early 1900s: Georgia O’Keeffe, D.H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, Willa Cather, Dorothy Brett, Ansel Adams, Maynard Dixon and Dorothea Lange? Born an heiress in Buffalo, […]

A Salon at the Edge of the World: Mabel Dodge Luhan in Taos

July 29, 2021

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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

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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

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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

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“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

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“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

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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

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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

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“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

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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

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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

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“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

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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