Cover Photo: photo by D. Laird/flickr
photo by D. Laird/flickr

What “American Night” Meant to My Chinese American Family

Holding on to our cultural foods and customs was a labor of love, but labor nevertheless. American Night provided a little respite.


The tangy, robust flavors of tomato merge with the aromatic garlic notes and savory beef. The sauce still tastes like tomatoes—fresh and tart. Mom hates sour things, so my dad takes the “add sugar to taste” instruction to heart. He pours sugar from the dispenser into the wok, one circle, two circles, three circles, sometimes four. The sugar dissolves as he stirs with a wok chaan.

stuck-up white person,stinky white ghost.

The author as a child (far left), with her family


Shirley is a writer, wanderer, food lover, and former civil rights attorney from San Francisco.  She was a 2012 and 2017 VONA/Voices of Our Nation fellow in memoir and travel writing and a 2018 fellow in Kearny Street Workshop's Interdisciplinary Writers Lab. She is working on a memoir about food and social justice.