by Pete Dulin, NAAAP-KC
Curtis Chin's memoir Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant explores his coming of age and coming out. The memoir 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.
NPR wrote about Chin's memoir in October of 2023.
"Chin's new memoir, Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant tells his life story of growing up in 1980s Detroit — infusing his focus on diversity and community, and how they affected his upbringing.
"Chin describes the difficulty of living in the motor city at that time, as the automobile industry struggled, the AIDS epidemic took its toll, and the usage of crack cocaine became more widespread.
"While he witnessed the world around him struggling, Chin had his own challenges to face as well: chiefly, coming out as gay in a working-class immigrant community, and going on to become a first-generation college student."
Chin's account of his life and challenges is compelling, a vital read for Asian-Americans who may relate to a voice and a struggle not often articulated in such detail much less shared in accessible form in contemporary literature. Diversity and community are not mere abstract themes and feel-good signposts to tout as virtue signaling, but rather deep commitments informed by Chin's upbringing and experiences.
Chin's career spans a wide array of media that led to his own creative storytelling work.
He is the co-founder of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in New York City. Chin served as the non-profits’ first executive director. He wrote 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.
Chin has received awards from ABC/Disney Television, New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and more. He's currently writing projects for PBS and Warner Bros. and his essay in Bon Appetit was just selected for Best Food Writing in America 2023.
NAAAP-KC invites members and non-members to attend its Lunar New Year Author Event, an author reading and discussion with Curtis Chin on Saturday, February 10, 11 am - 12:30 pm, Durwood Film Vault, Central Library: Vault Level, 14 W. 10th Street, KCMO. The event is free. Seating is Limited. RSVP Required.