Curtis Chin: Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant (ONLINE)
From filmmaker and co-founder of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Curtis Chin’s memoir about coming of age and coming out traces the author’s journey through 1980’s Detroit as he navigated rising xenophobia, the AIDS epidemic, and the Reagan Revolution to find his voice as a writer and activist—all set against the backdrop of his family’s popular Chinese restaurant. Chin discusses his memoir Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant streamed live from the American Writers Museum with Grace Chan McKibben, Executive Director at the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community.
This event is the live online broadcast of an in-person event. When you register for this event you will get a link to view the broadcast via Zoom. If you would like to attend the event in-person at the American Writers Museum, register here.
More about Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant:
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.
Praise for Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant:
“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)
“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
A co-founder of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in New York City, CURTIS CHIN served as the non-profits’ first Executive Director. He went on to write for network and cable television before transitioning to social justice documentaries. Chin has screened his films at over 600 venues in sixteen countries. He has written for CNN, Bon Appetit, the Detroit Free Press, and the Emancipator/Boston Globe. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Chin has received awards from ABC/Disney Television, New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and more. His memoir, Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant will be published by Little, Brown in Fall 2023. His essay in Bon Appetit was just selected for Best Food Writing in America 2023.
GRACE CHAN MCKIBBEN is Executive Director at the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC), which seeks to empower the Chinese American communities in Greater Chicago through planning, advocacy, and organizing. For over 25 years, Grace has held senior level positions in education, government, corporate, and nonprofits and is a fierce advocate of equality, inclusion, and belonging for immigrants, persons of color, the low-income community, and the LGBTQ+ community. Grace is also co-founder of a pro-bono legal clinic in Chinatown, three consultancy firms, and a women’s choir, and serves on many volunteer boards and commissions, including the ACLU, City of Chicago’s Community Development Commission, and the State of Illinois Asian American Employment Plan Advisory Council.
Chinese American Museum of Chicago (CAMOC). The Chinese American Museum of Chicago seeks to advance the appreciation of Chinese American culture through exhibitions, education and research and to preserve the past, present and future of Chinese Americans, primarily in the American Midwest. Its current major exhibition, “Chinese Cuisine in America: Stories, Struggles and Successes,” examines the complex history of Chinese immigration since the California Gold Rush and explores how Chinese American cuisine continuously transformed itself over the years.
Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC). The Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community is a non-profit planning and policy organization whose mission is to unify and uplift the Chinese and Asian American civic voice in the Greater Chinatown area. Through a combination of civic engagement, community planning, and civic leadership, CBCAC has achieved significant policy successes since its established in 1998. In addition to increased voter engagement and successful advocacy of community assets such as a new library and new field house, CBCAC led community responses to meet the health and other needs exacerbated by the COVID pandemic and increased anti-Asian sentiments, and is currently leading longer-range planning for a safe, healthy, and vibrant community in Chinatown and surrounding neighborhoods.
OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates, Greater Chicago. Founded in 1973, OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates is a non-profit, membership-driven organization with over 100 chapters nationwide. OCA Greater Chicago focuses on professional and leadership development and is dedicated to promoting the economic, professional, and social well-being of AAPI’s in the Greater Chicago area. For the past two years, OCA Chicago has hosted AAPI Restaurants Week during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May by publishing a directory that showcased AAPI-owned restaurants all around the Chicagoland area.
University of Michigan Asian/Asia American and Pacific Islander Alumni ClubThe University of Michigan Asian/Asian American and Pacific Islander Alumni Club is an affinity group of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan. It collaborates with various University of Michigan Alumni Clubs to bring together and build community for Michigan alumni of Asian descent and their allies. They have a wide range of events including but not limited to educational activities, cultural food outings, holiday celebrations, documentary screenings, and book events.