Live audience interactions are the most informative and rewarding experiences for authors, but it is also gratifying to obtain the validation of one's work when major libraries add your work. Harvard, among other universities, has a copy of Southern Fried Rice in its holdings. Today, I learned that the National Library of China in Beijing is the latest place to add Southern Fried Rice... hopefully they, and other Chinese institutions, may add my other Chinese American history books to their holdings. Chinese in China need to know the history of the Chinese who settled in the U. S., Canada, and many other parts of the world.
As if all the side-effects of searching for and finding maternal relatives in Saskatchewan while researching Canadian Chinese Cafes for my SWEET & SOUR book were not enough excitement, I recently received an e-mail from a young writer in Boston who had read SOUTHERN FRIED RICE and found that it stimulated her interest in writing a novel about Chinese in the Deep South, specifically Augusta, from where her mother had grown up as part of the Chinese community there some 40 years ago.
She was particularly fascinated to learn more about the Chinese-Black interactions in the community where many Chinese immigrants ran mom and pop grocery stores in the black neighborhoods (I am not using the current term, African American, simply because that label did not exist during those days).
I managed to put her in contact with other Chinese from the Augusta area, and they graciously provided her with a rich supply of anecdotes and memories of the past. She and her mother will be going to Augusta for a visit soon, which should prove very moving as it has been over 40 years since the mother has been there, and it will be the first visit for the daughter.
I am delighted that Southern Fried Rice played a small role in generating the potential for an author to write more about the Chinese of the Deep South in the days when Jim Crow prevailed.
As luck would have it, the Georgia Literary Festival, which is held each year in a different locale, was in my hometown of Macon in 2006. It was a special opportunity to return after so many years to the site that was the locale where the events in Southern Fried Rice occurred.
I was in Atlanta in 2005 to give a paper at the Asian American Studies conference. Again, press releases allowed the local Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) to know of my visit and they invited me to speak at their dinner. The event was almost a total disaster because the event started about an hour late due to problems with the restaurant not realizing that 100 guests were coming. So, I wisely chopped my prepared talk to 15 mins in view of the late hour, but the Q & A surprisingly went for an hour. This informality played to my abilities honed from years of college teaching to 'work the audience.' Afterwards, I got 2 more invites to come back to Atlanta the next month, one to give a Keynote Address to a black tie dinner gala for Who's Who in Asian Americans in Georgia and to give a talk about Southern Fried Rice to the local chapter of National Association of Asian American Professionals. Both of these opportunities just fell into my lap, and I decided to accept the challenges, and they both went very well.
I had never attended a book reading/signing when I was invited to the Chinese Historical Society Museum in San Francisco in 2005. It was rewarding because some many audience members reported sharing some similar experiences to mine. After this first event, I decided to stop "reading" verbatim because I could achieve more eye contact and interest with the audience by speaking off the cuff, aided usually by some visuals shown with Powerpoint.