Stephen Jin-Nom Lee was born in 1902. When he was eight years old he was sent to live in America where he remained until after he had graduated with a degree in economics from the University of California at Berkeley. Unable to secure employment due to racism in the 1920s, he returned to China. Lee’s accountancy skills led him to become the controller of the Chinese Air Force with the rank of full colonel. Leaving the military, Lee became a banker and then a professor teaching finance. He returned to California in 1956. He died in 1970, leaving behind the Canton Elegy manuscript.