A Chinese American Odyssey

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This blog provides updates about other fascinating experiences I had while researching, writing, and speaking about my books on Chinese American history and ethnic identity after the publication of A CHINESE AMERICAN ODYSSEY in 2014.

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Coca Cola and Chinese in the South

Posted by John Jung on November 13, 2017 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Growing up in Macon, Georgia, with its hot and humid summers, as a kid, I relished any opportunity to drink an ice cold bottle of Coca Cola. I actually enjoyed other soft drinks such as Nehi Orange and Grape, Dr. Pepper, 7 Up, and Pepsi Cola, as long as they were ice cold, but Coke was Number 1.

Imagine my excitement decades later when I was invited to return to the South in 2014 to speak on a panel during Asian American Month to employees about the relationship between Coke and Chinese in the South at the national corporate headquarters of Coca Cola in Atlanta where Coca Cola had its origins.




After our well-received panel presentation, we were treated a lunch and served, what else, but Coke, to drink followed by a guided tour of an historic archive of Coca Cola memorabilia that is not available to the public. Any thing with reference to Coke was stored in this huge archiveincluding ads, old bottles, Coke bric a brac, toys.

The event brought back happy childhood memories of drinking Coke while reading comic books or playing checkers on hot summer days!

"Preaching" Beyond the "Choir"

Posted by John Jung on February 5, 2017 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

     Over the past decade, I have had more than100 opportunities to speak about the Chinese experience in America. The response has been very positive especially from audience members who have personal or indirect exposure to the mistreatment and lack of recognition Chinese have generally encountered.  Despite this positive reception, I have wanted to have opportunities to "preach beyond the choir," so to speak.  

      My audiences have been predominantly Chinese Americans, and most of them have been from older generations.  But awareness of Chinese American history is of great value to younger Chinese Americans and to non-Chinese of all generations.

        Opportunity to speak to a large mostly non-Chinese audience called this year when John Gee arranged an invitation for me to speak at part of a semester long lecture series at Laguna Woods Village sponsored by the Saddleback College Emeritus Insittute in Orange County, California.  

    Over 400 attended for a 9:30 a.m. talk on a morning despite a threat of rain.  More importantly to me, probably 98% of the audience were not Chinese or Asian. After the talk, many complimented me for teaching them about many aspects of American history they never knew and others shared their own experiences with Chinese laundries and restaurants.


Below: I am with Rob Henry, Program Faculty Coordinator, Dan Predoehl, Director of Emeritus Institute, and Gordon Hom, President of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.

Serendipity and Yin and Yang Press Promotion

Posted by John Jung on July 1, 2016 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)
          Writing books is easy compared to marketing and promoting them. I've given over 100 book talks on Yin and Yang Press books, which is my favorite method of publicizing my work.  I recently decided to try the method used by brand name apparel. For example, Nike has its swoosh logo and "Just Do It" slogan to increase its visibility. 

So, I thought, why not try a similar approach so I created a t-shirt with a Yin-Yang symbol along with the translation of part

of my Chinese name,  

which happens to be part of a famous Chinese proverb that aptly relates to the goal of Yin and Yang Press, namely, "When you drink water, remember the source."

By chance, I wore it when I and my friend, Lynne Choy, went to see an exhibit commemorating Nixon's historic visit to Red China in 1972. My Yin and Yang Press t-shirt caught the eyes of the curator of the exhibit and the General Manager of South Coast Plaza which hosted it. To my surprise, they invited us to pose with them in front of their creative and important exhibit, displayed in a 3-dimensional representation of a Yin and Yang symbol.  

My t-shirt may not have created any sales of my books, but it did lead to a serendipitous bit of publicity for my brand!

Return to Portland

Posted by John Jung on June 10, 2016 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I was pleased to have not one, but two, opportunities to speak again in Portland in May, 2016. My prior visits arranged by the late Bruce Wong, a long time Portland Chinese community leader, enabled me to develop strong connections with the Portland Chinese.

My visit conicided with two outstanding exhibits at the Oregon Historical Society, one about Portland's rich Chinatown history and the other, an outstanding visiting exhibition from the New York Historical Society, Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion, a comprehensive exhibit of interactive displays, personal stories, documents and artifacts related to the negative impact of the Chinese Exclusion laws from 1882-1943, followed by the positive attitudes toward Chinese in the following years. This outstanding exhibit attracted a visit all the way from Seatlle of about 10 members of their Chinese American Citizens Alliance and I had the opportunity to meet briefly with them and explain how I "reinvented myself" after retiring.

            My first talk, focused on Chinese identity and based on my memoir, Southern Fried Rice, was held at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCAM) not far from the historic old Chinatown.

          The next evening I spoke about my latest book, "A Chinese American Odyssey" to the Chinese Scientists, Engineers, and Professionals Association at a Chinese restaurant in the other "Chinatown" on 82nd Street.  One unexpected surprise was that among the attendees were several librarians from Fujian universities. They were visiting their counterparts in Portland, their "sister city."  The Portlanders generously purchased sets of all of my books to donate to these Fujian libraries.

How "South of Gold Mountain" Played in the North

Posted by John Jung on October 24, 2015 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)
Never in my wildest fantasy, did I expect when writing my two books about Chinese immigrants in the Deep South, Southern Fried Rice and Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton, that they would prove useful to choreographers H. T. Chen and Dian Dong in New York's Chinatown.  They were intrigued to know more about the lives of these pioneering Chinese in a region where they were so isolated from Chinese communities and where they were caught in between the white/black divided society.  Chen and Dong visited the South to interview many Chinese and were inspired to create South of Gold Mountain (SOGM) a modern dance performance as an homage to the lives of Chinese grocers, laundrymen, and restaurateurs.
        I got to meet them briefly in October, 2014 and learn more about their plans at a large gathering of Delta Chinese who came from far and wide for a reunion in Cleveland, Mississippi.  I was pleased to provide them with valuable information as well as photographs of Chinese grocers, laundrymen, and restaurateurs, and their families, some of which were included as backgrounds projected behind the dancers during SOGM performances.

The initial performances of SOGM were held in southern cities, and it was uncertain when and if funding could be secured for performances in California. When I learned SOGM would be performed in Tempe, AZ in the spring of 2015, I decided that was close enough to journey there to attend two performances and be part of a post performance Q & A panel. The touching production captured the spirit of the life experiences of Chinese in the South.  I gave details about my Tempe experiences in an earlier post on this blog.

 H. T. Chen succeeded with funding and arrangements for several performances in New York City in mid-October, 2015.  I and several Mississippi Delta Chinese, pictured below, were invited to speak at a press conference for the production, followed two days later by attendance and post performance panel discussion at the N.Y. premiere performance.

The performances of SOGM in NYC attracted large audiences, and judging by their reactions, were engaging, entertaining, and enlightening.  The evening was almost 'magical' in the impact on the audience.  For me, being involved with SOGM was one of the most unexpected and rewarding adventures in my "Odyssey" searching for the experience of Chinese in America.

What Dance Critics Say:

US QIAO BAO, press conference (in CHINESE)


Broadway World

Theater Scene


BELOW: H.T. Chen and Dian Dong on the left with the cast of SOGM and the post performance panel speakers.

Chiu Family Roots in the Mississippi Delta: An Update

Posted by John Jung on October 24, 2015 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

In a post I made last year about the importance of teaching Chinese American history to the younger generation, I described the story of Baldwin Chiu, wife Larissa Lam Chiu, brother Edward, father Charles, and baby daughter Caliya making a pilgrimage to the Mississippi Delta to pay respects to his grandfather K. C. Lou and great grandfather, Charles Lou who operated a grocery store in the Delta and are buried side by side in Cleveland, Mississippi.

The remarkable trip during which they surprisingly were connected with members of the Dunn family, whose father had purchased the grocery store from the Chiu's ancestors inspired Baldwin and Larissa, accomplished musicians and performance artists, to create a documentary, FINDING CLEVELAND, about their inspiring journey. My book about the Delta Chinese, "Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton," helped provide them with the historical context for their story and Baldwin interviewed me about the lives of Chinese in the South.  The film has been entered in several film festivals and has been well-received.

In October, 2015, the Museum of Chinese in America in New York Chinatown screened FINDING CLEVELAND following musical performances by Baldwin (aka Only Won) and Larissa Lam as shown below. 

  I was invited to present an overview of the social history of Chinese in the Delta to provide the audience with the background of the times and places of Chinese during the era involved in FINDING CLEVELAND.

Story Behind the Odyssey Book Cover

Posted by John Jung on October 11, 2015 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (0)

     Along with coming up with a memorable and relevant title for a book, there is the matter of designing an eye-catching artistic and appropriate cover. The adage that you can't judge a book by its cover is still valid, but the cover is part of what gets someone to be interested in reading, and evaluating, a book.

    I was ever so lucky that Marina Bang, a "web-friend" now living in England took an interest in Odyssey. This talented artist and writer generously volunteered to design my book cover.  I sent her some images and she selected one of me at about age 9 or 10 and skillfully and artistically created the cover.

         Thanks, Marina, for your beautiful cover and supportive interest in my work!

       I showed the cover to several friends who all admired the 'minimalist' simplicity, and one friend, Mike Revzin, suggested that I try to tie the baseball image to the content of the book.  At first, that seemed to me to be a very difficult task, but it inspired me to come up with: How a Retired Psychologist Makes a Hit as a Historian.

It's great to have such talented and encouraging friends like Marina and Mike!

Performing At Carnegie Hall

Posted by John Jung on September 27, 2015 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Well, not THE Carnegie Hall, but still a pleasure to speak to students at Lake Forest College in their Carnegie Hall just a short distance from my alma mater, Northwestern University.  

A week or two before my visit to speak at the Chinese American Museum of Chicago (CAMOC), Professor of Chinese, Ying Wu, learned that I would be in Chicago and invited me to speak to her classes at Lake Forest College, about 30 miles north of Chicago.

Good fortune smiled on me because the President of CAMOC, Soo Lon Moy, and her husband Ram live in Lake Forest and came to hear my talk. And, I didn't have to worry about transportation to Lake Forest. Anita Luk, the Executive Director of CAMOC, lived near Evanston, where I was staying with friends from my graduate school days, and volunteered to pick me up and chauffeur me to Lake Forest.

This was a great way to end my Chicago weekend following my talk on Odyssey at  CAMOC.   The event also allowed Lake Forest College and CAMOC leaders to meet and form a network connection for future joint endeavors.

Made My Day!

Posted by John Jung on September 27, 2015 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Got an e-mail from a librarian today that was exciting! She noted that:

"A lady checked out Chinese American Odyssey then came back and checked out all your other books the next day. She said you had such an engaging way of writing that she wanted to read all your books."

Hopefully, some other readers of one of my books will also be motivated to read the other four!

"Odyssey" in the Midwest

Posted by John Jung on August 22, 2015 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

A chance to return for a third book talk at one of my favorite sites, the Chinese American Museum of Chicago in the heart of Chinatown, a place I used to occasionally visit when I was attending graduate school at Northwestern University for some soul food!