Our Laundry, Our Town: My Chinese American Life from Flushing to the Downtown Stage and Beyond


Product Details

Fordham University Press
Publish Date
5.7 X 8.5 X 0.9 inches | 0.85 pounds

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About the Author

Alvin Eng is a native NYC playwright, performer, acoustic punk rock raconteur, and educator. His plays and performances have been seen Off-Broadway and throughout the United States as well as in Paris, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou, China. Eng is the editor of the oral history/play anthology, Tokens? The NYC Asian American Experience on Stage. His plays, lyrics, and memoir excerpts have also been published in numerous anthologies. His storytelling and commentary have been broadcast and streamed on National Public Radio, among others.


Eng's contentment in fully embracing his identity as both American and Chinese is full of humor and heart. His fluency across cultures - not just in New York and China but also in rock music, theatrical performance, playwriting, and journalism - lends itself to a multifaceted, engaging memoir.-- "PopMatters"
Second-generation Asian American youth always feel like they're the first to not belong. How liberating, then, to encounter Our Laundry, Our Town. The book tells a moving tale of the distances that separate you from your immigrant parents, as well as a Toisanese labor history set in a laundry, but there's a surprising twist. The protagonist is a young punk who hates math, loves The Who, and finds himself navigating the late-twentieth-century multicultural bohemia of rock and hip hop, Asian American film and theater, and avant-garde queer performance. In this humorous, amiable, and deeply heartfelt memoir, Eng seems to have achieved the Asian American dream: honoring his mother and father before him while also creating a community where he can be his whole self and finally belong.---KEN CHEN, Associate Director of Creative Writing at Barnard College; former Executive Director, Asian American Writers' Workshop
Alvin Eng's fascinating, funny, aching, searching, loving memoir derives its power from that key element of New York City's dynamism and magic: that behind every apartment door and scrappy storefront, in every far-flung outer-borough neighborhood, lie vast worlds, sweeping histories, and epic tales of questing souls melding the old ways into something meaningful and new.---LISA KRON, playwright, actor and Tony Award-winning bookwriter and lyricist of Fun Home
Alvin Eng's masterful, sweeping memoir about growing up with his five siblings in a dysfunctional family in the back of the Foo J. Chin Chinese Hand Laundry in Flushing, Queens is laced with his marvelous humor, family anecdotes and metaphors that bring a century of the Chinese American Experience to life. I was deeply touched, especially by the spirits parallels between the folks in Thornton Wilder's Our Town and the laundry-- and the beautiful idea that his parents didn't really see each other either--like the characters in the play. Just a beautiful book.---STEVE ZEITLIN, folklorist, author of Poetry of Everyday Life and Founding Director of City Lore
An evocative perspective on the Chinese American experience, a personal time-capsulated journey from immigrant Chinatowns back to China's motherland. Eng creates a memoir-style blend of satire, sociology, and history to explore familial relationships, issues of identity, race, societal expectations--a multi-generational spin on assimilation and 'Americanization' that struggles through 'longing to belong.' Eng is a gem.---HENRY CHANG, author of the Detective Jack Yu crime novel series
Our Laundry, Our Town makes an important and badly needed East Coast contribution to the continually evolving Asian American literary canon. Asian American and Ethnic Studies students and others will be able to find their personal experiences of regret, resignation, and, hopefully, triumph defined with pathos and humor, and written from--what has been rare in this genre--an adult's point of view. And the book is absolutely fun to read!---JEFFERY PAUL CHAN, author of Eat Everything Before You Die; co-editor of Aiiieeeee!, and co-founder of the first Asian American Studies program in the United States at San Francisco State University
In Our Laundry, Our Town reveals how and why Eng has become a writer, by way of his youthful identity quest through music, television, Cantonese opera, Chinese and American cinema, theatre, and performance. The awareness, self-knowledge, and self-acceptance he acquires is won sometimes painfully, sometimes comically, from a synthesis of American and Chinese culture particular to the time and place he inhabits.---LINDA S. CHAPMAN, recipient of the Lilly Award and former Associate Artistic Director, New York Theatre Workshop
Powerful, funny at times, and consistently inspiring, Our Laundry, Our Town turns one artist's journey into the story of AAPI communities and emergence of a movement over the past half-century. Alvin Eng's engaging memoir looks back on the past to envision a better future.---DAVID HENRY HWANG, screenwriter and Tony Award-winning playwright of M. Butterfly
This new autobiography is a welcome addition to the Chinese American Toishan experience.-- "International Examiner"
A true fixture of Flushing and NYC history, Alvin takes us from his immigrant parents' hand laundry to the 80s punk scene to 90s experimental Downtown Theater, then connects it to his complicated trip back to the motherland as a 'jook sing.'---KRISTINA WONG, performance artist/author
Part personal journey, part historical deep dive into NYC's Chinese community.---BRIAN LEHRER, WNYC/NPR
I really like how he takes global, geopolitical engagements like the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance and explains how they affected his family personally.---ALISON STEWART, WNYC/NPR
Alvin Eng writes passionately about his humble beginnings in the Foo J. Chin Chinese Hand Laundry in Flushing. This reflective, nostalgic book takes readers back to a very different NYC.---CHERYL WILLS, Spectrum News NY1