Lives of Mississippi Delta Chinese Grocers
The story of how a few Chinese immigrants found their way to the Mississippi River Delta in the late 1870s and earned their living with small family operated grocery stores in neighborhoods where mostly black cotton plantation workers lived. What was their status in the segregated black and white world of that time and place? How did this small group preserve their culture and ethnic identity? “Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton”is a social history of the lives of these pioneering families and the unique and valuable role they played in their communities for over a century.
John Jung grew up in Macon, Georgia, where his Chinese immigrant parents operated a laundry for more than 20 years and raised the only Chinese family in town. He was a professor of psychology for 40 years and upon retiring from California State University, Long Beach, he began a new career on the history of the Chinese American experience. He has published five books about Chinese immigrants running family businesses such as laundries, grocery stores and restaurants that afforded their children opportunities for better lives. The goal of these books is to inspire, educate, and preserve the history of the many contributions of the Chinese to American society.
Excerpts from Reviews
…traces their migration history, work, families, and social lives. His work is anchored in a creative mix of oral history, community historical documents and public records, and includes a generous fill of photos. As a study of the complexities of triangular race relations in the Jim Crow South, his work rivals James Loewen’s classic study, The Mississippi Chinese. Greg Robinson, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans Harvard University Press, 2001
“Chopsticks” tells the story of yet one more example of Chinese tenacity in which John Jung traces the paths of pioneer Chinese immigrants in Mississippi as they moved from laborers to become successful grocery store merchants for decades with family members and relatives serving as the backbone. “Chopsticks” pays tribute to the resilience and “can-do” attitude of these enterprising entrepreneurs. Sylvia Sun Minnick, Sam Fow,The San Joaquin Chinese Legacy
Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton explores aspects of Chinese settlement in the Mississippi Delta that earlier writings on the subject do not address in detail. Jung analyzes why grocery stores emerged as virtually the only occupation for Chinese in that area instead of farming and hand laundries. He examines the extensive kinship networking that brought male relatives and later whole families to this unlikely region for Chinese settlement. Jung’s impressive book can be enjoyed by ordinary readers for its captivating stories and by scholars for its thorough research and analysis of sources.
Daniel Bronstein, The Formation and Development of Chinese Communities in Atlanta, Augusta, And Savannah, Georgia: From Sojourners To Settlers, 1880-1965.
Thanks for all your hard work and research that has gone into writing and publishing this book…I think you have a unique perspective, being Chinese and growing up in the south, but not in the MS Delta. I trust that your journey through the Delta this past Fall was beneficial in gaining insight into the place and the people of this area. Gilroy Chow
… your book presents the most definitive and accurate account of the Chinese in the Ms Delta–what it was like to be Chinese and growing up in the segregated South during that time. Peter Joe
I am a friend of most of the people you interviewed in your book. I recently finished reading your book and felt I was right among the people you interviewed. It’s the best book written about the Chinese in the Mississippi Delta.
…a fascinating look at what life was like for my grandparents and mother. Indirectly, I learned a lot about my family. I felt that I knew very little about my mother’s childhood, but now I have a rich context with which to insert the stories I have heard. C. Acharya
…in my opinion, was a home run because he went to great lengths to gather so many accounts from many, many sources to present a wide spectrum of differing views about life in the Mississippi Delta. The views presented were not always the most flattering to the Delta Chinese either but he tried to be even-handed in the presentations. On balance this is the best study to-date of my community and I will be forever grateful for his wonderful work which exceeded all of my expectations. Bobby Joe Moon