What Led To "Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton: Lives of Mississipi Delta Chinese Grocers"

A curious thing happened at a talk I gave on Southern Fried Rice at the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California in 2007.  At the end, a Chinese who originated from the Mississippi Delta. Roland Chow, introduced himself to me, and urged me to consider writing about the lives of the Chinese in the Delta who almost exclusively were involved in one business, grocery stores. Taken aback by his suggestion, I hesitated since it is not a light matter to decide to write a book at a moment's notice.  Undeterred, Roland offered to put me in contact with many Chinese from or still in the Delta.  Over the next few months, I did some research and conducted some interviews with Delta Chinese and became fascinated by the story of how they ended in the Delta, what their lives were like, and what had happened to them over the past century.  I was able to establish instant rapport with the Delta Chinese I contacted.  Even though my "South" was somewhat different from their "South," we shared enough similarity in our perceptions and experiences that they felt comfortable that I could present an accurate picture of their lives.  Eventually, I wrote a social history of the Delta Chinese, "Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton: Lives of Mississippi Delta Chinese."

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