“Southern Fried Rice” and “Chinese Laundries”

Reader & Audience Reactions

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Your book is a joy to read. It has a beautiful flow to it and an enriching quality that is easier to feel than it is to describe. Couched in humor, it deals with the painful and serious matter of day-to-day struggles of existence of a couple who came here with hardly anything more than faith in their hearts and steel in their spines.  Krishan Saxena, Kensington, California

Thank you for telling your story in such an engaging manner.  While your story is personal it is also universal because of its working class foundation laced with layers of Chinese ethnicity, family structure and dynamics, and the specificity of the South.

Flo Oy Wong, Artist, Sunnyvale, California

Your book is the one that I had promised myself that I would write one day, but you went ahead and wrote it. You did a wonderful job!           Henry Tom, Frederick, Maryland

Enjoyed very much reading your family history revealing a unique experience yet sharing many of the same problems of families in Chinese laundries. Yours is one of the few written accounts of the many family-run laundries in the U. S. Thank you for the careful documentation of this history, which would be otherwise forgotten.   Tunney Lee, Boston,  

Southern Fried Rice is a well-written and factually documented memoir that gave me insight into the lives of Chinese in the South, especially those living where there were no other Chinese, as you did in Macon. Your move to San Francisco must have been as much of a cultural shock for you as it was for me, an African American moving to the Bay Area from Memphis.  Leatha Ruppert, Cotati, Ca.

I really enjoyed your presentation at NAAAP. Southern Fried Rice tells a very unique and interesting story.  Everyone in my family (my wife, my 9-year-old daughter, and myself) really enjoyed reading the book.  J. F.

Thank you for a wonderful evening as a speaker at the Chi-Am Circle dinner. Your speech and life in the South typify some of the members in our group.  My husband went through a lot when he was a child in Mississippi.   C. F.

I was pleased to be in your audience in Phoenix, and purchased both books from you. I thoroughly enjoyed reading So. Fried Rice and to know Chinese-Americans all over the US of our generation all felt the same about ourselves, no matter the parents’ occupation or our lifestyles. J. Y

Thank you again for coming to Houston last weekend and for giving us such an interesting talk.  I enjoyed reading your first book, "Southern Fried Rice", before the talk and 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.

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.  S. M.

You have an easygoing style of presentation, which let people warm up to you even though they don't know you from before. I read your story with interest. My parents also owned a laundry …Thank you for writing about a subject that is not a popular topic. D. L.

Your lecture yesterday was most interesting and with the most attendance for us so far...I hope that you were well pleased and will grant us future visits. We certainly were delighted to have you. M. L.

You have a very unique Chinese surname and a very nice name. Your Chinese romanization should be Lao Si-Yuan, and, of course, you would put last name (Lao) first in English. Your surname means "labor" or "to work." You first name (Si) means "to think" or " to reflect." Your middle name means "origin." It has three drops of water on the left, indicating that it originally meant for the water origin. The combination of your first name and middle name reminds you to think of your root or origin. What a nice and scholarly name!  J. W.

It reminded me so much of growing up in Augusta. Though we grew up in different times, the situations were similar, and I enjoyed reading very much your book.  I thought it was very interesting what you wrote about the music and art lessons that you had in public school since I can also remember these subjects….


Georgia has changed a lot from the times that we both grew up there, and I see more acceptance of Chinese and inter-marriages.  It was interesting to hear of your experiences in California as opposed to growing up in Georgia.  I wonder now whether Asians from California feel closer to their "roots" or whether assimilation into the society has made them feel more American and the Chinese heritage and customs are being forgotten.

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.

I have just finished reading Your book "Southern Fried Rice..." and thank you for your work and for publishing this information. My Father worked as a radio repairman at the Guy White Radio Shop on Mulberry Street across from the Grand Theater from 1940 to 1952. Having been born in Macon in 1940, my memories of Macon are similar to yours. I managed to escape in 1964 (A white person who was not a segregationist was not really acceptable to the society.) and finally settled in Portland, Oregon in 1974. My Daughter's high school was about 20% Asian students. I gave a copy of your book to a Chinese friend since several times we had discussed your family, and what it may have been like as the only Chinese in middle Georgia.

Your book was recommended to my by the Macon-Bibb County Public Library while in search of a relative(s) of Chinese ancestry who lived in Georgia.I truly appreciate your sharing your personal story.  It gave me a window into what life might have been like for my own family even though my relative most likely arrived in the 1870s.     I devoured your book with great interest!  I was reading with fingers crossed that perhaps a resource might pop up that might aid me in finding additional documentation of my ancestor(s).  

I have just finished reading "Southern Fried Rice," and thoroughly enjoyed this book!  I have learned much that hopefully will give me some leads in searching for information on my paternal grandfather.  I am particularly interested in searching out the Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance in New York, since my ancestor eventually migrated there from Florida and worked as a laundryman in Upper Manhattan, as he did in St. Augustine, FL.  However, even if I never find out anything, your book has allowed me to gain some insight into what his life might have been like, what he might have experienced as the only Chinese in St. Augustine, FL, and how he came to be there. 

I stumbled upon your book "Southern Fried Rice" while beginning a genealogy project for my family.  My husband is African American, from Bainbridge, GA and his great grandfather was Chinese.  I am just beginning to document the oral history, but I have been told that the Chinese family owned a laundry in Bainbridge, GA  most likely between 1920-1930.   One son (my husbands great grandfather) married an African American woman and had 3 children.  Unfortunately, he was killed by the KKK and the Chinese family moved west.  They offered to take the wife and children with them, but she declined, and remained in Bainbridge GA to raise the children with her family. 

I was so excited to find your book and I am looking forward to reading it.  My goal is to document the family history in context with American history.  Your book will be a valuable missing link.  Thank you for all your hard work.

Trina S. Pyron, M.A. 
Health Education Specialist 
Office on Smoking and Health 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

I stayed up last night and read your Southern Fried Rice; life in a Chinese laundry in the deep South. It was so fascinating; I couldn’t put it down; you definitely have a skill for writing.  Even though your family’s situation was unique, being the only Chinese in town vs. our having Chinese families up and down the MS Delta; the descriptions you gave of your family life was so typical of Chinese life that we experienced here.  Your family must have immigrated from the same area as the families in MS.  Your style is very readable and I could identify with all the Chinese customs that you mentioned (your Mother is to be commended for keeping the Chinese traditions).  I especially appreciate your approach to the White, Black, Chinese relationships, an honest statement of how it was rather than totally making it a race issue.   F. Q.

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

I think your book has been circulating around our church, and everyone that reads it can't put it down. I'm one of the few southern Chinese in my church, so when one of my friends discovered your book Southern Fried Rice, he insisted that I read it.  Honestly I couldn't put it down.  Thank you for writing and documenting that time period.  Many of the things that you and your family went through I could relate and was reminded of how things were.  F.W.

Thank you for sharing your personal story with your readers. You seem to have an easygoing style of presentation which lets people warm up to you even though they don't know you from before.I read your story with interest. My parents also owned a laundry in the city of Newark, California from 1963 to 1972. However, our laundry is not the traditional "Chinese owned" laundry that you may have described in your book, it was a coin operated laundromat in a rural town (population 12,000 at the time)...Thank you for writing about a subject that is not a popular topic.  Diana L.

I enjoyed it very much!  I can really relate because your family’s history parallels mine, especially with the migration to San Francisco.  That’s why I bought several – to give to each of my siblings. Like my mother used to say, “always remember your roots.”  And your memoir helps us do that!   Florence L.

My husband and I are Caucasian and we adopted our daughter from China.  She is in third grade now and has been learning about Martin Luther King.  Yesterday, after seeing a video in school about Dr. King, she asked me a question I couldn’t answer:  “If there were black drinking fountains and white drinking fountains, which one would I go to?”  She held out her forearm to show me that her skin was darker than mine.    I’ve been trying to find out the answer to this question, and haven’t come up with any good leads. When I saw the information about you and your book, I hoped you might be able to help us, either based on your own experience or research.

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.   


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 

I FINALLY read Southern fried rice. in fact, I started the book at about 2:30am this morning and finished it just now...at 6am.   I loved it.  Every part of what Dr. Jung wrote is true; the customs, values, mannerisms, and ways of thought mentioned throughout the book are almost cookie-cutter to those of my parents. the one difference is that my parents came directly to LA and they owned a restaurant instead of a laundry business.  thanks so much for referring the book to me!

Thank you so much for a wonderful presentation.  It was a great evening for all of us. Our MCCA members and friends all enjoyed learning about Chinese American history and your life in Macon, GA.  Lots of luck on your talk in Berkeley tomorrow.                   Jean Bee Chan, Marin Chinese Cultural Association

Your story telling is great. And the struggles of your parents to make a living doing hard work under harsh conditions in an alien society, as well as raise a family with dignity and values under those circumstances, is a remarkable one.  It consoles the reader and even inspires him/her to continue.  It is the story of every family that no body writes about.  It has a quality of saying it is "my story."  Not an easy thing to achieve as a writer.

It was very nice to meet you at Assn Asian American Studies. I have now finished SOUTHERN FRIED RICE.  I think it is fascinating and very revealing. You have a fine talent as a storyteller. I look forward to the publication of your new book.   Greg Robinson, Associate Professor of History, Université du Québec À Montréal

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?

Southern Fried Rice    I started reading it last night and couldn't put it down.  So I have just finished reading it.  It's an excellent book.  All of us raised in the south can relate to things you have written about in your book.  A.S.

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. W. C

I have just finished your book.  It was so intriguing, that, had it not been for a colleague dropping by to remind me that it was past noon, I would have read right through lunch. Your book has probably inspired me to consider what my family has been asking (nagging) me to do:  To write my autobiography.  (“Since you have retired, you will have nothing better to do . . .”).  Hmmm -- I’m not sure that a scientist will possess the literary skills as someone schooled in the Humanities.


At certain points, I simply had to stop and laugh:  jook-sing!!  What?! – you too?? I feel like I could (should) highlight, and add marginal notes!! I will certainly have to tell my brothers that they should obtain copies of your book.  Since we all spent years working in the laundry, they will be able to relate to your experiences as well.

I have just finished reading John R. Jung's book, "Southern Fried Rice - Life in A Chinese Laundry in the Deep South". It was G-R-E-A-T!! His was the only Chinese family in Macon, Georgia. It is incredible how his experiences exactly paralleled ours; -- the same prejudices and discriminations that we incurred in Kannapolis. In fact, the building looked just like ours; -- laundry down stairs with living quarters upstairs.; -- those same three windows looking down on the street below.

It was a pleasure meeting you today @ Delta State U & well worth the 2-hr drive … I am look'g forward to read'g your books and will share them among our 3 college-age daughters. Your time and patience in document'g grow'g up in America in the early years will help visualize to the younger generation what our ancestors went through. My humble thanks, Linda

Thank you for agreeing to come to the Mississippi Delta and sharing your stories with us. It was such a pleasure meeting you.  We are all anxiously awaiting the release of CHOPSTICKS and your return to the Delta. …  please know that you have a strong fan base here in the Mississippi Delta, and at Delta State University.  Georgene