I officially retired in 2005 after 4 decades as a Professor of Psychology, with no intention of starting a new career, and certainly not one centered around Chinese American history. My modest goal somewhere around 2002 was to write a memoir that focused on my parents, especially my mother, who immigrated from a village in Guangdong, China in the 1920s and settled in Macon, Georgia. There they operated a laundry and raised a family of four children, the only Chinese people in town with the nearest other Chinese about 100 miles away in Atlanta.
It was not easy living in cultural isolation, especially in a time and place where racial discrimination was firmly entrenched. And although blacks were at the bottom of the society, at least they had a community of other blacks to socialize with whereas being the only Chinese in Macon, we were totally isolated. As I was growing up, I came to 'accept' this isolation in the sense that I didn't have any other experience to compare it with. I got along well at school with teachers and classmates and had a relatively happy childhood. In contrast, my parents did not know or accept many American customs and values. They had no recreational or social opportunities and their lives centered on working to survive.
In writing a memoir, I wanted to record the history of my parents' lives. Why and how did they end up in Georgia rather than in San Francisco or New York, for example, where there were large Chinese communities? I wanted the memoir to be a record and tribute to my parents and the difficult and lonely lives that they had in Macon.
This undertaking was unlike anything I had ever written for psychological journals or textbooks. I was not even confident that the memoir would even be of interest to others even if I managed to complete it. Somehow, with some guidance and editorial advice from mentors and friends, Southern Fried Rice: Life in A Chinese Laundry in the Deep South emerged.
Next, I had to find a publisher but as I feared, the small market for this topic discouraged the few publishers that I approached even though they felt the story was worthwhile. After some searching for solutions, I decided to self-publish because I felt that there was so little written about the very few Chinese living in the Deep South during the middle 20th century that our family's story would never be told.