This was the chance of a lifetime... an invitation to come back to my hometown after being away more than 50 years and tell the story of our family's experience in Macon as the only Chinese in town! ( I had made two brief visits of 1-2 days to Macon during that half-century, but not to speak to an audience)
What is the Georgia Literary Festival? It is a wonderful idea in which a different site in Georgia is selected each year. Authors who have some connection with that city are invited to come and talk about their literary work. It is a celebration aimed to increase local pride and awareness and to stimulate interest in reading.
|Bot. Lt: Me with Chris Stokes, local archivist who was son of a classmate.|
Bot. Rt; classmates Carey Pickard, me, and Richard Harris
My "homecoming" was an unforgettable Rip Van Winkle-like weekend. I got to walk around the historic downtown, see the old site of our laundry on which now stands a parking structure. Still, I was about to relive old childhood memories. One highlight was to visit the Washington Library, my childhood refuge from the laundry that gave me a window into the world beyond Macon.
The Festival gave me a chance to talk about Southern Fried Rice in the very town where the story is based. There was already good local interest stimulated a few months earlier by a nice article about our lives in Macon in the Macon Telegraph by Ed Grisamore, noted regional columnist. In the audience were several people I knew, Gus Parker, a teacher from junior high, and several schoolmates from elementary and junior high school including Tim Adams who was a year behind me so I didn't really know him but he and his wife Julie hosted me for 3 days in the finest style of Southern hospitality. I also got a chance to talk to the members of the Unitarian Church one day about my Macon memories and on another day I spoke about ethnic identity development issues based on our lives in Macon to some students and faculty of the Departments of History and Education at Mercer University.
I had a book signing at the Golden Bough bookstore, which was located, coincidentally, just one or two doors down from my parents' original laundry site in 1928 on Cotton Avenue. Many old buildings withstood the test of time while others had vanished. Our Mulberry St. laundry site was now occupied by a multilevel parking lot while the city moved the historic Confederate soldier monument that dominated a mound in the middle of a main intersection to a new location to make room for left turn lanes... so much for preserving history!