Born in Macon, Georgia, to Chinese immigrant parents who operated a laundry during the years before the civil rights era, I didn’t fully know what being Chinese meant as we were the only Chinese in town. After I retired from a forty-year career as a professor of psychology, my interest in understanding how my ethnic identity emerged led me to write a memoir, Southern Fried Rice: Life in A Chinese Laundry in the Deep South, in 2005. Positive responses from readers and audiences when I gave book talks all over the U. S. made me realize this was an important story to preserve and share.
I was inspired to write several additional books: Chinese Laundries: Tickets to Survival on Gold Mountain (2007), Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton: Lives of Mississippi Delta Chinese Grocers (2009), Sweet & Sour: Life in Chinese Family Restaurants (2010), and A Chinese American Odyssey: How A Retired Psychologist Makes A Hit As A Historian (2014).
My approach to history focuses on the life experiences of Chinese immigrant families rather than dates and events. The goal of these books is to further the understanding and appreciation of how Chinese survived, despite anti-Chinese prejudices, to succeed in family businesses such as laundries, grocery stores, and restaurants. These books have led to more than one hundred book talks across the country at history museums, community groups, libraries, universities, senior centers, and even in a fifth-grade class.
Ten Things I Can’t Do Without
- Time to be alone and think
- My glasses
- My dog, Rufus
- The World Wide Web
- Social media
- Swimming daily
- Learning and sharing Chinese American history
- Ice cream