Sunday, May 8, 2016

Life in Chinese Family Restaurants: Did You Ever Wonder?

Writing Cold Midnight, my St Johnsbury mystery set in 1921 when local businessman Sam Wah died an "untimely death," I did a lot of research into Chinese laundry owners like Mr. Wah. It surprised me so much that St. J had a Chinese man in business on Railroad Street for 35 years, way back then! It also helped wake me up to how many Chinese people live in our region now, and the family businesses that they own.

John Jung, a retired professor of psychology in California, developed a second career for himself, writing about Chinese and Chinese-American life in America. And Professor Jung became one of the people I would check details with. In return, I pass along to him newspaper articles from the 1800s, 1900s, and "today" about Chinese family businesses and also about the types of ethnic-related crime that drew my attention to Sam Wah in the first place.

Now Professor Jung has his own publishing house for his books -- Yin & Yang Press -- and has brought out five intriguing books. He suggested that our library might enjoy having a copy of SWEET AND SOUR: Life in Chinese Family Restaurants. From the development of "American Chinese" menus, and the pioneers in this business, to intriguing interviews with owners of these (usually small) family-run restaurants, the book is full of stories that are enjoyable and enlightening. One restaurant family he received material from has a restaurant in Montreal -- maybe you have eaten there! Look for the book on the shelf at the Davies Memorial Library next week.

If you enjoy videos, try this one of John Jung talking about this book! (You'll find Professor Jung easy to listen to -- no "Chinese accent," he's a true Californian and a skilled speaker from being a college professor.)

What are you reading now, or what books about our world and our lives do you think would be good to add to our library collection? Email library director Jen D'Agostino at with your ideas and book descriptions.

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