ATLAS OBSCURA -- Romasanta, who had written the children’s book Beautiful Eyes, called up Dawn Mabalon, a historian, San Francisco State University professor, and old friend, who happened to be working on a biography of Itliong. “So I approached her and said, ‘Hey, listen: We’ve got to write [a] children’s book.”
For Mabalon, her proposal was serendipitous.
“I was really frustrated because I couldn’t find the time, the resources, to finish my scholarly biography [of Itliong],” she says. “Meanwhile, we were cognizant of how absent Filipino American history was in K – 12 schools.”
In her 2013 book Little Manila Is in the Heart, Mabalon wrote about the Filipino story on the United States’ West Coast, particularly about the “struggle to make communities, build families amidst just virulent racism and violence, laws that barred them from citizenship and marrying white women,” she says. It was only through this research that she began to learn much more about Larry Itliong’s story.
Illustration by Gayle Romasanta