12/11/10

What Led to Writing "Chinese Laundries: Tickets to Survival on Gold Mountain"

I never planned to write more than one book on Chinese American history, namely Southern Fried Rice, which was a personal document about my life and that of my family in Georgia. Since a memoir was based on personal experiences and memories, I didn't have to do voluminous research of previous research so in that respect, I felt 'comfortable' in undertaking that writing task.  However, my strong habits of research developed in my earlier career as a research psychologist led me to do a considerable amount of research about the history of Chinese in America, especially with respect to the role of the laundry as their dominant occupation in the last part of the 19th century before it was replaced by the Chinese restaurant.

What I learned from this research gave me the impetus to write a social history of the laundry. describing how and why Chinese entered this business in such large numbers and examining its influence on the lives of thousands of Chinese and their families across the U. S. and Canada.  To make the story come alive and not be just a set of facts, figures, and dates, I was fortunate to recruit 8 Chinese who, like myself, grew up in their family's laundry and aided in the labor that helped their family earn a living.  The result, "Chinese Laundries: Tickets to Survival on Gold Mountain, is part history and part personal journals of experiences of those who ran the laundries.

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