Southern Fried Rice: Life in A Chinese Laundry in the Deep South, 2005
story of immigrant parents and their children, the only Chinese in a city in the Deep South, running a laundry from just before the Great Depression until the early 1950s when they moved to San Francisco to escape social and cultural isolation and join a Chinese community. The memoir raises issues that are central to the daily lives of immigrants from many lands as they struggle to adjust to a new country with a different language and customs. It describes how they encounter prejudice and discrimination against racial minorities in America, manage to earn a living through hard work and thriftiness, stay connected to family and relatives in their homeland, and eventually become acculturated to American ways. Southern Fried Rice illustrates the immigrants’ struggle to raise children who often reject or question the values and customs of the parents’ homeland as they become ‘Americanized,’ and examines how children face and resolve conflicts and dilemmas related to ethnic identity and cultural clashes with their immigrant parents.
The current focus on immigration
issues in America makes Southern Fried Rice
relevant as it provides insights that promote better
understanding of the difficult lives of many immigrant
families in America. Although it is the story of only one
family, Southern Fried Rice has wide
appeal because of its relevance to peoples across a wide range
of backgrounds. The story has fascinated audiences differing
in age, gender, ethnic background, and education level for it
deals with many experiences universally encountered by
Scholarly Praise for Southern Fried Rice
Southern Fried Rice tells the overlooked history of Chinese Americans in the Deep South through the author’s account of his family’s experiences in Georgia running a laundry from the late 1920s through the 1950s. This inside view of an immigrant family who struggled to make a living and to maintain connections with their Chinese heritage and homeland highlights the mutability and complexity of Chinese American identity and the frequently forgotten ethnic and racial diversity of the South.
Krystyn Moon, Asst. Prof. of History, Georgia State University
Author, “Yellowface: Creating the Chinese in American Popular Music and Performance, 1850s-1920s”
“… a humane and personal reflection … an incisive clarity that shines extra light on the mundane oddities and inhuman logic of everyday life in the South before the Civil Rights era. … a rare glimpse at the fairly common experience of those Americans who found themselves in the impossible spaces of the American racial order, a world that is both thankfully distant and yet hauntingly familiar still.”
Henry Yu, Associate Professor of History, UCLA and University of British Columbia
Author, “Thinking Orientals, Migration, Contact, and Exoticism in Modern America”
... Being the only Chinese in town, their lives were certainly not mint julep and magnolias. Southern Fried Rice describes the process of running a laundry and the difficulty of raising children isolated from other Chinese... Through it all, the family, itself, remained steadfast in their cultural traits and folkways. …Quan Shee, the author’s mother, was truly a woman warrior...
Sylvia Sun Minnick Author, “Samfow, The San Joaquin Chinese Experience”
... a fascinating and insightful account of
Chinese-American family life in the context of restraints on
immigration and the U.S. racial and economic systems. This
story of one remarkable family offers valuable insight about
economic struggles in difficult times, intergenerational
relations, continuing ties to Chinese culture and community,
family obligation, gender, the key role of laundries in
Chinese economic opportunity, and much else. This is a
charming and informative book.
Paul Rosenblatt, Professor of Family Social Sciences, University of Minnesota Author, Multiracial Couples: Black and White Voices
provides an insightful account of himself and his family in
the context of Chinese immigrants who lived in the American
South during the 1940s and 1950s. The unique experiences and
struggles of his family members serve both to confirm some
principles from social science research on Chinese in
America as well as to remind us of the importance of
individual differences, yielding meaningfulness and
substance to issues of culture, race relations, immigration,
and identity development. This engaging, candid, and often
humorous and heartwarming book is an important contribution
not only to the fields of psychology, sociology, and history
but also to literature. Social scientists and students alike
will find the book immensely fascinating and satisfying.
Stanley Sue, Distinguished Professor, Psychology and Asian American Studies, University of California, Davis Co-Editor,” Asian American Mental Health: Assessment Theories and Methods”
This narrative, woven with genuine scholarship about the lives of Chinese immigrants, is a masterful bit of storytelling. It is an admirable and valuable contribution.
Ronald Gallimore, Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA Author, “Rousing Minds to Life, Teaching, learning,and schooling in social context”
Rich with historical details of immigration,
John Jung's engaging memoir about growing up Chinese in the
segregated South is an insightful observation about the
resilience of Asian American families and the fluidity of
culture and ethnic identities across different historical
moments and racialized spaces.
Barbara Kim, Asst. Prof. Asian American Studies, Cal State University, Long Beach
Southern Fried Rice demonstrates the fluidity of regional and national identity and is both a construction and deconstruction of "Chinese-ness.”…These stories offer much toward confirming and complicating popular notions of what it means to be "American" just as it traces the slippery identity shifts of what it means to be "Chinese" … a valuable mirror that will help move the history of those who are neither Black nor White towards a more deserving central role in the national and international human story.
Stephanie Y. Evans, Assistant Professor, African American Studies and Women's Studies, University of Florida Author,”Black Women in The Ivory Tower, 1850-1954: An Intellectual History”
This interesting memoir presents a
unique view of ethnic identity development. It provides
fascinating insights into the process of learning what it
means to be Chinese when there is no Chinese community, or
even other Chinese families, to interact with, and the way
subsequent experiences in -- and out -- of a Chinese community
further shape this process.
Jean Phinney, Professor of Psychology, Cal State U, Los Angeles Creator of the Multi-Group Ethnic Identity Measure
In Southern Fried Rice, John Jung offers an intriguing and unique
perspective on American immigration. Based on his experience
as a child in the only Chinese family in Macon, Georgia in
the mid-20th century, Jung’s story is a fascinating account
of the negotiation of personal and ethnic identity in a
foreign environment. His narrative highlights many of the
features of the larger society, including both government
policy and situational practice, that shape the lives of
immigrants, both then and now.
Kay Deaux, Distinguished Professor, Psychology, City University of New York Graduate Center Author, “To be An Immigrant”
A charming and engrossing self-ethnography. More importantly, John Jung’s book enhances the archive on Asians in the South as well as our understanding of how Jim Crow situated the Chinese between “white” and “colored.
Leslie Bow, English and Asian American Studies (Director) University of Wisconsin
Author "Partly Colored: Asian Americans and Racial Anomaly in the Segregated South”
Coast To Coast and, even Down Under … Readers Love Southern Fried Rice
book is a joy to read. It has a beautiful flow to it and an
enriching quality that is easier to feel than it is to
describe. Couched in humor, it deals with the painful and
serious matter of day-to-day struggles of existence of a
couple who came here with hardly anything more than faith in
their hearts and steel in their spines.
Krishan Saxena, Kensington, California
Your book is the one that I had promised myself that I would write one day, but you went ahead and wrote it. You did a wonderful job!
Henry Tom, Frederick, Maryland
Thank you for telling your story in such an engaging manner. While your story is personal it is also universal because of its working class foundation laced with layers of Chinese ethnicity, family structure and dynamics, and the specificity of the South.
Flo Oy Wong, Artist, Sunnyvale, California
Enjoyed very much reading your family history revealing a unique experience yet sharing many of the same problems of families in Chinese laundries. Yours is one of the few written accounts of the many family-run laundries in the U. S. Thank you for the careful documentation of this history, which would be otherwise forgotten. Tunney Lee, Boston, Massachusetts
is a well-written and factually documented memoir that gave me
insight into the lives of Chinese in the South, especially
those living where there were no other Chinese, as you did in
Macon. Your move to San Francisco must have been as much of a
cultural shock for you as it was for me, an African American
moving to the Bay Area from Memphis.
Leatha Ruppert, Cotati, California
- couldn't put the book down until it was finished - it
mirrored many of my own childhood experiences growing up in
New Zealand in the 50s. The Chinese immigrant experience must
have been the same the world over."
Helen Wong, Auckland, New Zealand
Chinese Laundries: Tickets To Survival on Gold Mountain
social history of Chinese laundries in the U.S. and Canada that examines their origins and development as a major factor on the economic, psychological, and sociological status of Chinese immigrants from 1850s to 1950s.
Scholars Praise for "CHINESE LAUNDRIES”
…important window into the history of the early Chinese immigrants. . . The laundrymen faced struggles, challenges, and even disappointments; yet, the Chinese laundry became a valued and necessary enterprise …
Sylvia Sun Minnick, SamFow: The San Joaquin Chinese Legacy and Stockton's Chinese Community
… a significant contribution to the history of Chinese laundries … best told by someone like Jung who experienced a ‘laundry life,’ and understands its psychological impact on the Chinese laundrymen and their families. . .
Murray K. Lee, Curator of Chinese American History, San Diego Chinese Historical Museum
rewarding study of an era marked by invention born of dire
necessity, an unforgiving host society that demanded Chinese
laundrymen’s services but then punished them for being too
good at it, … a long overdue analysis of a familiar experience
hidden in plain sight.
Mel Brown, Chinese Heart of Texas, The San Antonio Chinese Community, 1875-1975.
… a welcome contribution to Chinese American studies that depicts the plight of early generations of Chinese caught in the predicament of operating laundries to provide for their families, ... while enduring extreme hardship and loneliness ... inclusion of historic documents, photographs, newspaper article excerpts, and revealing personal stories and insider observations from a few of the many who, like the author, grew up and worked in their family laundries. The subject deserves attention and further exploration in view of the significant impact that the laundry had not only on the Chinese American experience, but also in the social and cultural histories of the U.S. and Canada.
Joan S. Wang, Race, Gender, and Laundry Work: The Roles of Chinese Laundrymen and American Women in the United States, 1850–1950, Journal of American Ethnic History
… a remarkable book...a comprehensive historical study of the Chinese laundries in the United States, a profound analysis of the psychological experiences of the Chinese laundrymen in America and their families in China; and above all, written by someone who has intimate experiences with the Chinese laundry, it is a tribute to those Chinese immigrants whose labor and sacrifice laid the foundation of the Chinese American community, and a testimony of the Chinese laundrymen’s resilience, resourcefulness, and humanity.
Renqiu Yu, To Save China, To Save Ourselves, The Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance of New York.
From the Foreword:
What is remarkable is the combination of this historical perspective with his social psychological descriptions and analyses of laundrymen and their descendants. The personal life stories, with their inner thought, feeling, values, attitudes, work experiences and survival hardships, are skillfully presented with penetrating insights and observations. These perspectives present an overall picture of the history and the life and work of the laundrymen.
Ban Seng Hoe, Curator of Asian Studies, Canadian Museum of Civilization
Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton: Lives of Mississippi Delta Chinese Grocers
The story of how a few Chinese immigrants found their way to the Mississippi River Delta in the late 1870s and earned their living with small family operated grocery stores in neighborhoods where mostly black cotton plantation workers lived. What was their status in the segregated black and white world of that time and place? How did this small group preserve their culture and ethnic identity? "Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton" is a social history of the lives of these pioneering families and the unique and valuable role they played in their communities for over a century.
Readers’ Praise for Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton
your book presents the most definitive and accurate account
of the Chinese in the Ms Delta--what it was like to be
Chinese and growing up in the segregated South during that
time. Thanks for all your time and effort in researching and
telling the story of the Ms Chinese Grocers in the Land of
Cotton." Peter Joe
"Thank you for writing this book especially so that current and future young people with roots in the South will know about their roots..."
"What a juicy read! The hard work, the social isolation, the networking, the solutions of problems such as education in a segregated society which never had them in mind - it's mind-boggling! And the similarities... More > and differences in the Chinese relationships with whites as opposed to blacks - fascinating! Your books are a significant contribution to the social history of this nation." Nan McGehee
"Wow! Impressive! I think it takes an outsider to truly appreciate it. We're too close to it to really appreciate what a great social history it is."
"I felt like I was right among the people you interviewed. It is the best book written about the Chinese in the Mississippi Delta."
"Thanks for all you have done for Chinese Americans. I know that if my father were still alive, he would be devouring all your books and research."
Scholars’ Praise for Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton
John Jung's third book about relatively
undocumented aspects of Chinese American history is a solid,
well-researched, and engagingly written study of the Chinese
grocery stores in the Mississippi River Delta from their
post-Civil War Reconstruction era beginnings to the present.
Jung deftly demonstrates how these sojourners from the
Guangdong province found their niche in a unique and
challengingly complex social setting, rigidly stratified by
race. They not only `survived,' but overcame racism to prosper
and eventually become valued members of their communities.
After a thorough historical background that provides a
framework needed to fully portray their difficult
circumstances, the author examines both the sociological and
psychological aspects of daily life for Chinese American
grocery store families. As a Chinese American who grew up in
the Deep South himself, John Jung has a degree of empathy that
imbues Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton with an insight both
in depth and breadth that is totally requisite for a study of
Mel Brown, Chinese Heart of Texas, The San Antonio Community, 1875-1975; Editor, TexAsia, San Antonio's Asian Communities, 1978-2008.
In Chopsticks in The Land of Cotton, John Jung has done it again! Plunging into the history of Chinese grocers in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta, he traces their migration history, work, families, and social lives. His work is anchored in a creative mix of oral history, community historical documents and public records, and includes a generous fill of photos. As a study of the complexities of triangular race relations in the Jim Crow South, his work rivals James Loewen's classic study, The Mississippi Chinese.
Greg Robinson, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (Harvard University Press, 2001)
"Chopsticks" tells the story of yet one more example of Chinese tenacity in which John Jung traces the paths of pioneer Chinese immigrants in Mississippi as they moved from laborers to become successful grocery store merchants for decades with family members and relatives serving as the backbone. "Chopsticks" pays tribute to the resilience and "can-do" attitude of these enterprising entrepreneurs.
Sylvia Sun Minnick, Sam Fow,The San Joaquin Chinese Legacy
Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton explores aspects of Chinese settlement in the Mississippi Delta that earlier writings on the subject do not address in detail. Jung analyzes why grocery stores emerged as virtually the only occupation for Chinese in that area instead of farming and hand laundries. He examines the extensive kinship networking that brought male relatives and later whole families to this unlikely region for Chinese settlement. Jung's impressive book can be enjoyed by ordinary readers for its captivating stories and by scholars for its thorough research and analysis of sources.
Daniel Bronstein, The Formation and Development of Chinese Communities in Atlanta, Augusta, And Savannah, Georgia: From Sojourners To Settlers, 1880-1965
John Jung provides meticulous detail on a subject worth much greater examination: the Chinese grocery stores of the South. These grocery stores were the center of Chinese American family and commercial life in the South, including Texas and the Southwest, for at least half of the twentieth century. Jung illuminates every aspect of these grocery stores, which were as important to black neighborhoods as they were to the Chinese American families who ran them. Especially of interest is Jung's exploration of the relationships between Chinese Americans and African Americans, a topic distorted by the iconic images of more recent inter-ethnic conflicts. Chopsticks is a valuable contribution to Asian American history.
Irwin Tang, Co-Author and Editor Asian Texans: Our Histories and Our Lives
Praise from Scholars for “Sweet and Sour”
has taken us down another memory lane and this time we brought
along our appetite. "Sweet & Sour" evoked hundreds of
memories of Chinatowns, favorite soul food dishes, haunts of
opulent and garish banquet halls and the more frequented and
beloved hole-in-the walls. These are the collective memories
shared by families and friends. Sweet & Sour is also an
anthropological study. Chinese cooks across these United
States and Canada created an everlasting love for Chinese food
enjoyed by all cultures. Find a “chop suey” house and
generations upon generations will cite their favorites, be it
chow mein, fried
rice, beef brisket stew or even chicken feet. Without a doubt
this is by far Jung’s best work and with the greatest
Sylvia Sun Minnick, "Samfow: The San Joaquin Chinese Legacy"
admired and enjoyed "Sweet and Sour: Life in Chinese Family
Restaurants" It does an excellent job of
going over the historical background on early U. S.
Chinese restaurants, unearthing lots of material new to
me. And the interviews of Chinese restaurateurs
opened up a whole new side to the story, of what it was
like to work and live in these restaurants.
Andrew Coe, "Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States"
Jung again demonstrates a marvelous ability to blend archival
data with fascinating first-person accounts to bring to life
the family-operated Chinese eateries that are quickly
disappearing from today’s society. Following solid historical
groundwork, Jung uses narratives of 10 individuals who grew up
in such places to take readers inside old-time chop suey
houses. Their stories provide a candid telling of the
personal, familial, and cultural significance of these
familiar cafes. As with his earlier books on Chinese
family-owned laundries and grocery stores, the author sheds a
fresh and ample light on a subject even more familiar. And
once again he does it so well from the inside out.
Mel Brown, "Chinese Heart of Texas: The San Antonio Community 1875-1975."
"Sweet And Sour" is a powerful historical exploration of an American institution: the family-owned Chinese restaurant. John Jung succeeds in bringing to life the exterior side of such Chinese eateries across the nation--their appearance, their location, and of course, their hybrid, Americanized menu offerings. In addition, by means of a variety of interviews and primary sources, he focuses attention as well on their little-known private side, the daily routines and harsh working conditions that made them run. Jung underlines the contributions of all family members, including children that were necessary for success.
Greg Robinson, Prof. of History, University of Quebec, Montreal. "A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement in North America"
I am reading your delightful book, Sweet and
Sour. I especially like the "Insider Perspectives"
section. Those first-hand experiences can generate a lot
of potentially testable hypotheses about how the Chinese
were able to provision their remote restaurants with
exotic ingredients while other ethnic groups could not.
Susan B. Carter, Univ. of California, Riverside
"Sweet and Sour: Life in Chinese Family Restaurants" tackles the long-neglected topic of Chinese food with a focus on Chinese restaurants. This well-researched, thoughtfully conceptualized monograph brings academic rigor and adds historical depth, as well as the perspectives of an insightful scholar and a second-generation Chinese American, to our understanding of the development of Chinese food in the realm of public consumption in the United States and Canada. It promises to elevate that understanding to a higher level... Through this book, I hope, consumers at the ubiquitous Chinese restaurants can also gain a deeper appreciation of historical forces and human experiences that have shaped the food they now enjoy.
Yong Chen, Professor of History, University of California, Irvine. "San Francisco Chinese 1850-1943:A Trans-Pacific Community."
"Sweet and Sour" covers many important aspects of the Chinese restaurant business and it is a great contribution to the study of Chinese food in America. This area really deserves more attention than it has had.
Haiming Liu, Professor of Ethnic and Women's Studies, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. “Food, Culinary Identity, and Transnational Culture: Chinese Restaurant Business in Southern California,” Journal of Asian American Studies, (2009)
their restaurants were small places now replaced by
franchises, chains, and Chinese from other regions who serve
different Chinese cuisines. This book, a memory-lane must-read
volume, is about places and lives of the Chinese restaurant
owners. It blends archival information, myriads of memories,
and historical explorations about early Chinese family-owned
family-operated restaurants, most in the south.
their harsh working conditions, savor the interviews, put
yourself in those primary source statements, and see the
pictures--most never before seen. Glean contributions the many
family members made. Garner the whys of their success. Get
deep into the washing of dishes, wiping flatware and
tabletops, even stir-frying chop suey and chow mein.
Jacqueline M. Newman, Flavor and Fortune Magazine
Yin & Yang Press
Psychological Perspectives on Chinese American History“When You Drink Water, Remember the Source”
For More Info, See Yin and Yang Catalog
About the Author:
John Jung was born in 1937 in Macon, Georgia, where his parents, the only Chinese in town, lived above their Sam Lee Laundry. Earning a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1962, he was a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach for 40 years, publishing many research articles as well as eight college textbooks including most recently, Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Behavior: Psychological Research Perspectives. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, 2001. Sec. Ed. 2010.