When I first started giving presentations at book talks and signings for "Southern Fried Rice," my focus was to inform my audience about the story of our family living as the only Chinese in our town. As I gave more presentations I became increasingly aware of unanticipated consequences. Most audiences seemed very interested in what I said, but I realized that different aspects of my story appealed to different audience members. Some identified with the laundry experiences, others with the isolation, and others with racial prejudice. Some identified more with my mother, others with my father, etc.
With older audiences of Chinese, many recalled similar experiences of their own and seemed to 'enjoy' reliving those experiences. They felt 'validated' by having someone tell a story that was essentially "their" story as much as it was mine. With younger audiences and with nonChinese audiences, many of the details were almost beyond their grasp as society has changed in so many ways since the 1940s, mostly for the better. Yet they seemed to benefit from learning from first-hand accounts about what life must have been like for many of their parents and grandparents.
I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of audiences that found my story compelling for them. My story touched upon some universal concerns, which allowed me to connect with most audience members. Anyone who grew up in isolated regions understood my story whether they were Chinese, African, or European Americans.
And, even those who found little to identify with, seemed to gain a better recognition and respect for the difficult struggles that most immigrants face in their survival in a land foreign and often hostile to them.