A Chinese American Odyssey

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A Chinese American Odyssey  is a memoir that describes the discoveries, many unexpected, when a Chinese American psychology professor retires and reinvents himself as a public historian of the Chinese in America. 

Author of four books on the social history of Chinese family-run businesses, he has given dozens of lectures around the country.   A Chinese American Odyssey provides a fascinating and insightful behind-the-scenes look at the processes involved in researching, writing, publishing, and promoting books.  Writers of books on any topic will find useful information.

From the Foreword

... Growth portrayed as a journey of challenging times, multiple temptations, and successes too. “A Chinese American Odyssey” recounts John’s growth not only in a new discipline but in his feeling Chinese... But this book is much more than a story of his personal growth. It proves that retirement need not be an end, but can be a beginning. It’s an inspiration not only for old professors, but everyone –– because sooner or later, if you are lucky, you will retire and wonder what’s left. A lot is possible, if you know John’s story.

For those inspired in retirement to become an author, “A Chinese American Odyssey” can help. In this book John focused “on the creative process of research, discovery, and writing, the self-publishing process, and the tasks of self-promotion and marketing. This is a personal account, and not a “How To” guide. Rather I describe the ups and downs of planned and unplanned experiences that unfolded in my new career.”

“A Chinese American Odyssey” implies in several places that John regards this as his final act as public historian. But knowing his history, who would be astonished if he did it again –– started a new research project, wrote another book? I wouldn’t. After all, Odysseus didn’t remain idle when he ended his journey.

Ronald Gallimore

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

University of California, Los Angeles

Comments from other scholars

A Chinese American Odyssey documents John Jung’s fascinating metamorphosis as he retired from the field of psychology to enter and become an important voice in Chinese American history. And John’s richly contextualized tales of his unique experiences as a Chinese makes the book an insightful cultural biography. Anyone interested in Chinese America, or how to succeed in a post-retirement career, should read this highly enjoyable memoir.

Yong Chen, Professor of History, University of California, Irvine. Chop Suey USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America. 

Storytelling is an art. Autobiography and memoir, when crafted well, are the synergy of history and literature: synthesis is the key to creative non-fiction. With a researcher’s reliance on evidence, a painter’s eye for detail, and a comedian’s sense of well-timed and thoughtful punch lines, John Jung’s four previous narratives have shown how to write well, live well, and merge the two in mindful and transparent social contemplation. Dr. Jung has a keen sense of style and craft, which I witnessed as a student in his research classes at California State University-Long Beach, where his commitment to train up-and-coming scholars was effective and infective. He loved research and made us love it too! In this latest book, it is clear that he also remains a master teacher. 

Jung’s books have been the epitome of good scholarship: his writing informs the reader and compels us to want more beauty and take more time for reflection in our own lives. He has mastered humanizing the Chinese American experience by placing it in a Southern context and, in doing so, humanizes us all by complicating the South we think we know. A Chinese American Odyssey focuses on the process of writing life stories and that process draws back the curtain so we can all witness the awful beauty of the personal difficulties that have made his Chinese American histories so impactful with an ever-growing regional, national, and  international audience. Dr. Jung demonstrates the intellectual power of creative scholarship and his generous spirit offers practical guidance for those who want to move ahead with telling their own story.

Stephanie Y. Evans, PhD

Chair, Department of African American Studies, Africana Women’s Studies, and History

Clark Atlanta University

John Jung has done it again. His quirky memoir is a wonderful kaleidoscopic view of Chinese American history from inside out and outside in that even throws in the kitchen sink. All will be richer for reading this lively tale of an incredible, post-academia publishing career that includes much serendipity in pursuit of some fast fading history and those, including himself, who lived it. 

Mel Brown, Chinese Heart of Texas: The San Antonio Community 1875-1975. TexAsia; San Antonio's Asian Communities 1978-2008.

John Jung is the epitome of a retiree who never fades away. He just changed his academic focus to expand his horizons into the field of Chinese American social history, and expose the struggles and triumphs of the second and third generations of laundry operators and restaurateurs - those who planted footholds in many a Chinatown. 

Sylvia Sun Minnick, SAMFOW: The San Joaquin Chinese Legacy.

Dr. John Jung's "A Chinese American Odyssey" is wonderful work of our Chinese American experience in Gold Mountain. He offers many historical and ancestral gems of the Chinese in America. His writing style is folksy as well as intimate. His memoir truly reflects my similar journey as a Bamboo on Gold Mountain. Another literary masterpiece by Dr. John Jung, a true giant.