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Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Curtis Chin inspires students through his memoir

The Chinese American author and filmmaker read his book and signs students’ copies at Fullerton College on Wednesday, Feb. 14.
Jamal A. Walker
After reading excerpts of “Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant”, author and filmmaker Curtis Chin holds his phone up to take a selfie of everyone that received a copy of his memoir in the Humanities Building on Wednesday, Feb. 14 at Fullerton College.

Chung’s Cantonese Cuisine has served over 10 million egg rolls for their customers since it opened in 1940 in Detroit. Though it closed over 23 years ago, Chung’s family owned and operated restaurant has now been immortalized in Curtis Chin’s memoir “Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant.” Chin came to Fullerton College Wednesday afternoon to speak to students, faculty, and staff about his journey as an author, poet, and filmmaker.

Chin shared the difficulties he faced in life and told about his endeavors with his family and sexuality. Chin’s parents came from an arranged marriage who said their teachings were contradictory to those he went to school with. His brothers and sisters were constantly encouraged to talk to strangers.

“They didn’t know what other opportunities existed outside of these four walls, but they knew they had a dining room filled with people who did,” Chin said. “Whenever my dad met someone who had an interesting job or just seemed really happy, he’d call all six of us over to ask questions about them.”

Curtis Chin reads an excerpt from his book “Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant.” (Jamal A. Walker)

Students in attendance from Introduction to LGBT studies and Asian Pacific Islander American History classes heard of the experiences Chin had inside Chung’s dining room. Chin read many excerpts from the 24 stories inside his memoir to the students. This inspired many to share their own personal journey and ask Chin questions about his.

“I think what the author has done by writing a book honoring his parents and grandparents work is really important and I really liked how he started this project as a way to communicate all of those experiences and the restaurant’s impact in Michigan,” said freshman business major Samiy Castillo Volivar.

Chin recalled meeting a woman at a book signing in Cambridge, Massachusetts who used to dine at Chung’s every Sunday with her family when she was a child. The woman’s mother had dementia and when she told her mom she was going to see one of Chung’s former employees, her memory returned to all of the menu items Chung’s made for their Sunday dinners.

After high school, Chin applied to only one college to appease his mother. During the day, Chin worked in the dining room at Chung’s and at night he attended creative writing classes at the University of Michigan. Divvying his time at Chung’s and college would be a balancing act that Chin would later appreciate greatly.

A Fullerton College student shares personal experiences with filmmaker and author, Curtis Chin while getting a signed copy of “Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant.” (Jamal A. Walker)

“I never had a set aside number of hours to study, I always had to squeeze it in between answering phones and waiting on customers so I really learned how to focus very, very quickly because I had to pivot,” said Chin. “There are additional challenges when you come from a working class background, but to see those as learning opportunities makes you a better person.”

The speaking engagement was a part of the events calendar for Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Advisory and Support Team. Fullerton College’s APIDA team was made possible from Fullerton College being one of 13 colleges in the country as a grant recipient of the AANAPISI (Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions) national grant. According to Ethnic Studies professor and event moderator Rosie Kar, part of the grant is supporting speakers and creating events for students.

“I’ve known Curtis’ work for 15 years,” said Kar. “I think it’s important when possible to uplift writers, artists, and people who are doing really interesting work.”

The APIDA team will be in attendance at the Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education in Oakland April 3-5. Their next campus event will be kicking off APIDA Heritage Month on May 1.

Chin will continue to promote “Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant” at book signings and readings. His next book will be a memoir about his dad and his passing from a car accident.

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Jamal A. Walker
Jamal A. Walker, Staff Reporter
Jamal Walker is a sophomore at Fullerton College in his first semester for The Hornet, writing for the Sports and Arts and Culture desks. Prior to studying at Fullerton College, Jamal served in the Army as a Public Affairs Specialist for four years and received an honorable discharge. He served in Colorado and South Korea and worked in three different newspapers. Jamal has been accepted to CSUs Long Beach, Northridge and Dominguez Hills. He hopes to graduate with his degree in journalism and get credentials to cover the Olympics in 2028 in Los Angeles. Outside of school, Jamal loves baseball and supports his hometown team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

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