11/25/10

Chinese Connectivity...less than 6 degrees of separation

I have had the very good fortune to meet many knowledgeable and helpful Chinese during my several years of writing and speaking about the experiences of Chinese and their families operating their own small businesses such as laundries, restaurants, and grocery stores.  I was initially surprised at how closely 'interconnected' the Chinese of my generation and earlier were to each other.  I was always discovering people who were relatives of or somehow connected to other Chinese in other parts of the country, and these revelations gave me more insight into how mobile but still-in-touch were these Chinese.

I will post several accounts of some fascinating linkages I have found between myself and other Chinese re: our history in the coming months. For example, two of the first people I met when I starting giving presentations were Joe and Liz Chan.  In fact, Liz was probably the first person to buy a copy of Southern Fried Rice; she grew up in the South also and her family also ran a laundry in Louisville, Ky. A year or two later when I decided to write a social history of Chinese laundries, I invited her to be one of the 'children of the laundry' to write a narrative about her experiences in this family business.  Then, when I subsequently embarked on a social history book about Chinese family restaurants, Joe kindly agreed to write an account of his growing in a family restaurant in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.


Some Connections Starting From Joe & Liz Chan



   Joe also arranged through his connections to have me invited to speak about Southern Fried Rice to the Desert Jade Women's Club in Phoenix in 2008.  One person in attendance was an artist, Joan Jue Yen, who generously sent me a book of her paintings that 'illustrated' classic Chinese proverbs and poems that she created to honor the spirit of "The Immigrant," a collection selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress Archives.

     Just this week, I stumbled upon a fascinating and thorough family history compiled by Jack Jue, Jr. who documented his great grandfather's immigration from China and his success in southern California operating an asparagus farm. I didn't realize it immediately, but soon discovered that Jack Jue, Jr.'s aunt is the artist I met 2 years ago at my Phoenix talk, Joan Yen!  Small world!

 Jack included a link for was a digitized version of a film made back in 1956 by Jack's father showing the farm and the workers laboring in the fields hand picking asparagus! What a precious historical gem! I contacted both Joan and Jack to commend them for their work and discovered that Jack had recently 'discovered' my first 3 Chinese American history books in Clarence Chu's shop in historic Locke, Ca.  What an intriguing coincidence!

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