Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant: A Memoir (Hardcover)

Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant: A Memoir By Curtis Chin Cover Image
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An American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book—Israel Fishman Nonfiction Award
A 2024 Michigan Notable Book
Best Nonfiction Books of the Year—Kirkus Reviews
Best Books of the Year—Apple Books
TIME’s Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2023 San Francisco Chronicle’s Highly Anticipated Books to Put on Your Radar This Fall 2023 • Washington Post’s Books to Read This Fall 2023 • Eater’s Best Food Books to Read 2023 • Lambda Literary Review’s October’s Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Literature

This “vivid, moving, funny, and heartfelt” memoir tells the story of Curtis Chin’s time growing up as a gay Chinese American kid in 1980’s Detroit (Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers).

Nineteen eighties Detroit was a volatile place to live, but above the fray stood a safe haven: Chung’s Cantonese Cuisine, where anyone—from the city’s first Black mayor to the local drag queens, from a big-time Hollywood star to elderly Jewish couples—could sit down for a warm, home-cooked meal. Here was where, beneath a bright-red awning and surrounded by his multigenerational family, filmmaker and activist Curtis Chin came of age; where he learned to embrace his identity as a gay ABC, or American-born Chinese; where he navigated the divided city’s spiraling misfortunes; and where—between helpings of almond boneless chicken, sweet-and-sour pork, and some of his own, less-savory culinary concoctions—he realized just how much he had to offer to the world, to his beloved family, and to himself.

Served up by the cofounder of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and structured around the very menu that graced the tables of Chung’s, Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant is both a memoir and an invitation: to step inside one boy’s childhood oasis, scoot into a vinyl booth, and grow up with him—and perhaps even share something off the secret menu.

About the Author

A cofounder of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in New York City, Curtis Chin served as the nonprofit’s first executive director. He went on to write for network television before transitioning to social-justice documentaries. Chin has screened his films at over six hundred venues in sixteen countries. He has written for CNN, Bon Appétit, and the Boston Globe’s Emancipator. A graduate of the University of Michigan and a former visiting scholar at New York University, Chin has received awards from ABC/Disney Television, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and more. He can be found at CurtisfromDetroit.com. 

Praise For…

“A charming, often funny account of a sentimental education in a Cantonese restaurant…Chin is a born storyteller with an easy manner, and this memoir should earn him many readers.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“A captivating account of growing up gay and Chinese in 1980s Detroit…In lucid, empathetic prose, Chin mounts an elegy for a now closed community center that doubles as a message of compassion to his former self. Readers will be moved.”—Publishers Weekly

"Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant is Chin’s story, but it’s also a love letter to the communal spaces that shape us."—TIME

“A candid, sometimes funny reflection on growing up Chinese American and gay in Detroit in the ‘70s and ‘80s.”—Associated Press

"Chin captures how precarious and conflicted both the city around him and his own feelings were, but mostly he details what a welcome refuge the beloved family restaurant was to him and his entire neighborhood...Full of insight, passion, and humor, Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant is a deeply satisfying read about a boy finding his place in the world."—Apple Books

"Breaking new ground has been part of Curtis Chin’s entire life, as his distinctive new memoir attests...In his bright, snappy voice, Chin traces his pioneering nature back to the Chinese restaurant his parents ran in Detroit, hospitable to all in a starkly divided city."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Exuberant, big-hearted...Chin also is a fantastic storyteller and his scintillating debut will have readers laughing, crying and laughing some more."—Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Chin’s vivid writing makes it easy to imagine him and his siblings hanging out at Chung’s and observing all the people who come in and out. Chin brings a combination of earnestness and levity to even more serious topics, like experiences of racism or denying his sexuality as a kid."—Eater

"Curtis Chin’s charming and contemplative debut memoir...is an engrossing chronicle of a city, a restaurant, a family and a boy’s path from anxious uncertainty to hard-won confidence."—BookPage

"Vivid, moving, funny, and heartfelt, Curtis Chin’s memoir showcases his talents as an activist and a storyteller. This is one man’s story of growing up gay, Chinese American, and working class in 1980s Detroit, finding a place in a large and loving immigrant family and in a changing city—and in doing so, carving out a place in the world for himself."—Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers

"The work Curtis Chin has done as a writer and organizer made so much of this current moment possible—a memoir from him is a cause for celebration."—Alexander Chee, bestselling author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

“Coming out and coming of age are hard enough for the average teen, but when they’re in a Chinese American family, in a city in conflict with itself, it becomes an epic journey of self-discovery. As a kid who also ran around in the back of a Chinese restaurant, this book is literary comfort food, so delicious and good for the soul. Curtis Chin’s story of coming of age and coming out is endearing and unforgettable.”—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of The Many Daughters of Afong May

"Curtis Chin's movable feast of a memoir dishes out everything you might want in a literary meal—savory reflections of our recent history, the sour-sweet tang of adolescent nostalgia, a little sauce, a lot of heart—and yes, plenty of hot tea. The real magic is in how a book that's so fulfilling still leaves you hungry for more." —Jeff Yang, New York Times bestselling author of The Golden Screen and Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the 90s to Now

“Many are the pleasures of Curtis Chin's portrait of his family — caught in between Ronald Reagan and Coleman Young, valedictory achievement and racist violence, shopping-mall suburbia in denial and Robocop metropolis in bad decline — and himself as a flawed, funny, deceptively low-key young man stumbling through doubt, shame, and pride towards himself. Everything I Learned, I Learned In A Chinese Restaurant is an indelible page-turner."

Jeff Chang, author of Water Mirror Echo: Bruce Lee and The Making of Asian America and Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation

Product Details
ISBN: 9780316507653
ISBN-10: 0316507652
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: October 17th, 2023
Pages: 304
Language: English
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