Readers of Chinese Laundries
I have to admit I was fascinated with both books, the text, and particularly the pictures, brought back memories of my younger days and my parents. I grew up knowing only the few Chinese laundries in the Washington DC area, and some of our cousins_ in New York. But I never thought much about the common threads until I started looking through your books. Thanks for the education and the enlightenment! I would certainly like to hear about your future works and other Chinese American heritage pursuits that you believe are of interest. Get M.
Jung traces about one hundred years of Chinese-American history in an excellent memoir that is inspiring yet told with a great underlying sense of humor. Students of Chinese language and culture will find the Cantonese references and photos spread throughout to be fascinating easter eggs. For example, one of the more interesting, subtle things I noticed was the picture of a homework exercise from the author’s mother’s English composition book on p191 where various English words were “sounded out” using Chinese characters as a Cantonese phonetic basis which is precisely what someone learning such a different and unfamiliar writing system as the Latin alphabet would do. Regardless of one’s background with Chinese, fans of history will find this a fascinating, fun read that is hard to put down: I myself read it in one sitting. Jung bats a 1.000 with this one, bravo!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and haven’t come across such an interesting and well-researched book on American Chinese history since “The Mississippi Chinese” by Loewen. Well done! One question I do have deals strangely enough with the cover which shows various images of the price list from Joe’s Laundry. Some of those words (such as yau4saam1 oil+clothing for “overalls”) I’ve never seen before though semantically they make sense. Are some of those words from another Cantonese dialect (e.g., Sei Yap rather than HK/GZ) or are they special two character laundry jargon or shorthand?
…am now reading your second book on “Chinese Laundries.” I understand that you are working on your third book “Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton”…. I like your writing style. It is clear and easy to read. J. T.
I appreciated that you wrote this book, because it has given me a deeper perspective in what it means to be a second generation Chinese American of emigrant parents who operated a Chinese laundry. I understand that all minorities that emigrated to the United States in search of a better life had their struggles with survival and discrimination, this makes me not only value and respect my parents, but for other emigrant parents who desired their children to be prosperous.
It is fabulous that you have compiled stories of Chinese laundry life within North America, It is amazing to learn how others grew up with similar experiences…the excerpts made me both laugh and cry. One thing for sure is that growing up in a Chinese laundry is colourful and interesting. Working class ethnic culture is so sur-real. Elwin Xie, Vancouver
Congratulations on a landmark achievement. We know how much work you put into this volume and I am highly honored to be a small part of your accomplishment. Thank you so much for preserving this part of history. I think you will be long remembered for your work. Ken Lee, Ohio State University.
I have just now finished reading your books and it was a delightful ambience down memory lane. Southern Fried Rice evoked many memories of when we lived in Athens (Ga),.. Chinese Laundries is a very readable history of a people who could endure and overcome any hardships… Tommy Nakayama
The fascination is that I too am Chinese American born in the deep south of Miami, Florida where my mother & father started out with a Chinese Laundry ending up with a grocery store. Margaret
After reading personal and brilliantly written accounts of the blood, sweat, and toil that Chinese Americans endured in the development of the laundry empire in America, you will never feel the same way about the mundane chore of loading and unloading your washer/dryer again. This book doesn’t just take you through the historical trajectory of the occupation oft-times associated with Chinese immigrants; it’s the story of a people–of families who believe in the value of hard work and determination, and the undying hope of a brighter future. This book is an absolute must-read for anyone of Chinese decent; more importantly, it is for anyone who has a dream. Kathy W.
I found “Chinese Laundries: Tickets to Survival on Gold Mountain” by John Jung on an independent writer’s website and was intrigued by the title that suggested a subject way off the beaten track. I was not prepared for the ease with which I was able to read this academic study of Chinese Laundries in the US. 1/4 of the book is a bibliography, bearing witness to the vast amount of knowledge the author possesses and how much research he has done to give credibility to his account. From casual to concrete discrimination, indirect legal victimization and tax laws to statistic, tables and photographs – a huge amount of details is given and documented. Individual accounts of the workers and owners of laundries lend a great personal touch to the hardship, tragedies and persistence that these people endured. Despite the often sad stories and the description of inhumane and intolerant treatment this book is by no account a tale of self-pity and pointing the finger. The facts are described objectively and it accentuated the survival spirit of these people rather than their role as victims. After all, they are survivors. Reading this book I learned a lot about an era and a subject I had little knowledge of, but I was also grasped by the great writing style that drew me in from the beginning and made me read more and more.
A thoroughly researched and readable account of the history of the Chinese laundrymen in North America. I say ‘readable’, yet at times it was hard to read of the hard lives and insults that the they endured to scratch out a meagre living. A serious work for the student of the history of the overseas Chinese, it documents a trade now gone, but which was still around in living memory, so that it may strike a real chord for some.
Audiences At Book Talks
We were honored to have you visit (Chinese American Museum of Chicago). Everyone really enjoyed your presentation and company-one of the best comments was _he was so down to earth and engaging. We thank you for sharing your family story and spending time with us. Soo Lon Moy
On behalf of Chinese American Museum Of Chicago and myself, I want to thank you very much for spending so much of your time with us while you were attending the AAAS conference here the past week. Your lecture yesterday was most interesting and with the most attendance for us so far. I know that there would be more exchanges if time permitted. I hope that you were well pleased and will grant us future visits. We certainly were delighted to have you. I have been away most of today, but sat down and read thru “Southern Fried Rice” in one sitting this evening. That says a lot about your book. Margaret Larsen
The Berkeley Chinese Community Church Senior Center have been twice blessed with your presentations, last year on “Chinese Laundries” and this year on “Southern Fried Rice.” You have a way of telling your stories that bring back so many memories of our own lives as we all grew up as 2nd generation Chinese Americans. We look forward to a presentation on your 3rd book “Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton” with great anticipation. Thank you again. Warren Chinn
Thanks! I bought four of your books already… I did enjoy your lecture on Chinese laundries. Miranda
I just wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed your lecture on Chinese laundries. Thank you for coming to Arizona State University and giving us a most enjoyable time.
After reading the chapter on “Lives of Chinese Laundry Children” I felt great pride in my unique experiences (growing up in a laundry), and was very happy to have my thoughts and feelings normalized. Kathy W.
From Chinese American Scholars
…important window into the history of the early Chinese immigrants. . . The laundrymen faced struggles, challenges, and even disappointments; yet, the Chinese laundry became a valued and necessary enterprise … Sylvia Sun Minnick, SamFow: The San Joaquin Chinese Legacy and Stockton’s Chinese Community
… a significant contribution to the history of Chinese laundries … best told by someone like Jung who experienced a ‘laundry life,’ and understands its psychological impact on the Chinese laundrymen and their families. . .Murray K. Lee, Curator of Chinese American History, San Diego Chinese Historical Museum
… rewarding study of an era marked by invention born of dire necessity, an unforgiving host society that demanded Chinese laundrymen’s services but then punished them for being too good at it, … a long overdue analysis of a familiar experience hidden in plain sight. Mel Brown, Chinese Heart of Texas, The San Antonio Chinese Community, 1875-1975.
… a welcome contribution to Chinese American studies that depicts the plight of early generations of Chinese caught in the predicament of operating laundries to provide for their families, … while enduring extreme hardship and loneliness … inclusion of historic documents, photographs, newspaper article excerpts, and revealing personal stories and insider observations from a few of the many who, like the author, grew up and worked in their family laundries. The subject deserves attention and further exploration in view of the significant impact that the laundry had not only on the Chinese American experience, but also in the social and cultural histories of the U.S. and Canada.
Joan S. Wang, Race, Gender, and Laundry Work: The Roles of Chinese Laundrymen and American Women in the United States, 1850–1950, Journal of American Ethnic History
… a remarkable book…a comprehensive historical study of the Chinese laundries in the United States, a profound analysis of the psychological experiences of the Chinese laundrymen in America and their families in China; and above all, written by someone who has intimate experiences with the Chinese laundry, it is a tribute to those Chinese immigrants whose labor and sacrifice laid the foundation of the Chinese American community, and a testimony of the Chinese laundrymen’s resilience, resourcefulness, and humanity.
Renqiu Yu, To Save China, To Save Ourselves, The Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance of New York.