The Chinese Historical Society of Southern California holds its meetings in the historic Castellar Elementary School in Los Angeles' Chinatown amidst many restaurants that feature traditional Cantonese based cuisine, a great setting to talk about the history of Chinese family restaurants. As a member of this vital organization, and well-acquainted with many of its members, I was pleased to share my findings with them.
I had made 2 previous presentations about my other books on Chinese American history; in fact, I can pinpoint the exact moment that I was directed toward researching Chinese grocers in the Mississippi Delta.
I had just finished talking about my memoir of growing up in a Chinese laundry in Macon, Georgia, where our family were the only Chinese in town. A former resident of the Delta, Roland Chow, thanked me for my talk, and urged me to consider writing a history of Mississippi Delta Chinese, a topic that I had never considered writing about simply because I did not feel I knew enough about it. However, with the encouragement of Roland leading me to do some research for several months, I became engrossed with the topic and recognized the urgency for someone to try to write on the subject which had been ignored since the 1970s work of James Loewen, Mississippi Chinese, and Robert Quan Seto, Lotus Among the Magnolias. Thus, the idea for "Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton," published in 2008, was born at Castellar School.