Curtis Chin, a multifaceted talent known for co-founding the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and his work as a filmmaker and social justice advocate, is about to unveil a deeply personal and illuminating chapter of his life in his upcoming memoir, “Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant.” The book, scheduled for release on Oct. 17, paints a vivid portrait of the Detroit that was and the restaurant that anchored a community, shedding light on the invaluable life lessons that sprang from this unique corner of the Motor City.
Nestled at the crossroads of Cass Avenue and Peterboro Street, Detroit’s once-thriving Chinatown, a bustling hub of culture and community, held countless cherished memories. One long-standing meetup location in the neighborhood was Chung’s Restaurant, which stood for over six decades as a gathering place for an eclectic array of patrons. For Chin, however, it was more than his family’s restaurant. It was there that Chin, an American-born Chinese man, learned to navigate the intricate facets of his identity.
Structured around the very menu that graced the tables of Chung’s, “Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant” invites readers to grow up alongside Chin, embracing his experiences, his identity, and the profound life lessons he garnered from this remarkable place—a place where perhaps even the “secret menu” of life’s wisdom is shared.
One Detroit senior producer Bill Kubota and contributor Chien-An Yuan spoke with Chin about the lessons he learned growing up in a Chinese restaurant, what Detroit’s Chinatown looked like at its peak in the 1980s, and the history of Chinese communities in Detroit, including their connection the Vincent Chin case.
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