The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

  • #26 on the New York Times Best Seller List
    and featured on The Colbert Report, Martha Stewart,, CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Charlie Rose Tomorrow, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, and NPR stations coast to coast. Also selected for Borders Original Voices and Book Sense. Follow me on Twitter! Fan me on Facebook.

  • Media & Interviews

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    Squat Magazine Q&A, at a Vietnamese restaurant in New York’s Koreantown

    Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

    An interview with Shereen Low for Squat Magazine, which is an online publication focusing on Chinese-themes largely read in the UK. We did the interview after the Asian American Writers Workshop reading in mid-March. It was us two Chinese-ish girls and three South Asian girls at a Vietnamese restaurant in Koreatown. Very pan-A.

    Audrey Magazine Profile: I collect toothpaste from around the world

    Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

    Elisa Mala wrote a nice two-page profile in Audrey Magazine [pdf] in which she interviewed my parents and numerous friends (Nolan, Sugi, Alexis) at the book party. It has a lot of detail about my family actually, and my siblings. And it mentions my hobby of collecting usual toothpaste flavors from around the world. (Coca […]

    Why does television always want to film people walking?

    Saturday, April 12th, 2008

    I taped another television segment today, though this one is not intended for an American audience, and strictly speaking, may actually be banned from within our borders. Suffice it to stay, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles may be immortalized as part of U.S. propaganda. Anyway, we did (yet another) shot of me walking. Television people always […]

    Fortune Cookie Chronicles quoted on Chop Suey in the New Yorker Online

    Saturday, April 12th, 2008

    A few people had passed me this little item by Andrea Thompson that ran on the New Yorker’s web site on chop suey a few weeks ago, where my book is mentioned and quoted. Exciting. Born in the U.S.A. In this week’s Tables for Two, Ligaya Mishan reviews Chop Suey, whose tongue-in-cheek name has little […]

    Fortune Cookie Chronicles on CNN with Lola Ogunnaike (and a Jack-o-Melon).

    Saturday, April 12th, 2008

    CNN ran a segment on Chinese food in America by my former colleague Lola Ogunnaike. Produced by the lovely Ethel Bass. We actually filmed at an Empire Szechuan, a descendent of the original restaurant that sparked the delivery revolution. I asked Lola what was different from print and television, and one of the things is […]

    Doing an all-day radio tour…by phone

    Monday, April 7th, 2008

    Today I am doing an insane tour by phone set up via Newman Communications, a PR firm that specializes in (among other things) literary radio and satellite television tours. They essentially hook you up with radio programs  (mostly live, some pre-taped) coast to coast on a very tight schedule. It has to be done over […]

    Lessons from TV

    Saturday, April 5th, 2008

    This is what I have learned over the last few weeks re television/video appearances. You do not dress for television the way you would dress in real life (or at least I don’t). For women, wear bright (but not too bright) solid colored tops: Royal blue, wine, maroon, emerald green. Pastels can be good (but […]

    OC Register: confronted by a wall of me-ness

    Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

    Richard Chang brought me physical copies of the paper where his Q&A with me ran. I have to say, I was kind of overwhelmed with the amount of me that was on that page. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of myself that large before.

    Elle Magazine Readers’ Book of the Month for April

    Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

      Yay. Elle Magazine’s April book of the month as determined by readers. Good news. “Elle Lettres” (not Letters, as it is a play on Belles Lettres, notes my friend Michael Grynbaum). They have one pro review, and one negative review, always. I thought the criticism was interesting — on structure and juxtaposition.

    Crossing paths again and again with Parag Khanna

    Saturday, March 29th, 2008

    A friend of mine mentioned that another author, Parag Khanna, had a book, The Second World, being published around the same time as mine from Random House. (read the New York Times Magazine cover excerpt.) And it turns out, really really around the same time. We ended up overlapping a lot in our tours. His […]

    幸运签饼纪事 (“Fortune Cookie Chronicles” in Chinese)

    Friday, March 28th, 2008

    Another random Chinese article…from a few weeks back, forwarded to me by my classmate from Beijing University Charlene Wang. I chose Charlene as a name for her in college, because her original English name was Beryl, and I was like nononono. You sound like some British grandmother. 华裔女记者掀起正统中餐热 李竞的新书《幸运签饼纪事》出版后带起了美国人的正统中国菜文化热。   幸运签饼是由日本人发明、”左宗棠鸡”不关左宗棠事、两代布什总统有特别留座的防弹中餐台,还有中国以外全世界最好吃的中餐馆原来在温哥华……这些有部分你或许知道,不过,更多的是你闻所未闻,这都是美国《纽约时报》华裔女记者李竞(Jennifer 8 Lee)走遍全美、横跨六大洲的游历收获,写成新书《幸运签饼纪事》,美式中国菜大发现加上正统中国菜的寻根,在美国带起了新的中国菜文化热。 Explaining General Tso (convergence)

    Friday, March 28th, 2008

    Time Magazine has a video with me talking about American Chinese food at Chinatown Brasserie. I’m interviewed by Gibert Cruz who himself is a print journalist by training. But we are all learning video. It’s all about convergence, I’m discovering.

    OC Register’s Q&A…musings on my Chinese name and Colbert

    Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

    Richard Chang of the Orange County Register write a Q&A with me and also plugs the appearances at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena; Friday at Skylight Books in Los Angeles; and Saturday at the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda. What is nice: it will also be picked up in the Los Angeles Daily […]

    Aol’s front page, “click bomb”

    Wednesday, March 26th, 2008 put this feature on Chinese food myths on its front page for six hours on Sunday and it cause a jump in traffic to this blog, and a sharp (but quick) bump on Amazon (~200 to 124). As a guy who worked for Gap’s Internet properties observed, when they have a shopping deal featured […]

    Washingtonian Chat Transcript from March 20

    Friday, March 21st, 2008

    On Thursday I did an online chat with the Washingtonian, which was really fun. (good questions) Sara Levine coordinated. Washington has been a surprisingly strong market for the book. (Great events at both the Library of Congress and Politics and Prose, who exercised their marketing muscle. Standing room only with ~150 people each.)

    Crossing paths with Obama in Philly

    Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

    Totally randomly, I was scheduled to stop in Philadelphia for two NPR interviews at WHYY at the same time that Obama was giving his eagerly anticipated (historic?) speech on race right across the street at the National Constitution Center. (Here is the text). Here are all the satellite trucks lined out front from WHYY’s second-floor […]

    Smith Magazine Q&A

    Monday, March 17th, 2008

    Elaine Chen writes up our Q&A for Smith Magazine INTERVIEW: Jennifer 8. Lee, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles Monday, March 17th, 2008 By Elaine Chen New York Times reporter Jennifer 8. Lee started tracking down a suspiciously high number of lottery winners, and ended up following a trail that led through hundreds of Chinese restaurants on […]

    Jeff Yang: on books and babies.

    Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

    Jeff Yang, the founder of A. Magazine and a columist for, has a piece interweaving The Fortune Cookie Chronicles and raising his sons. We had an hour-long interview before I ran out for a TV shoot on Saturday where he told me he liked my book. I was like, if there is one person […]

    Salon: “An attitude of amused observation, obsessive reporting, anthropological curiosity”

    Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

    Nina Lalli does a Q&A with me for Salon, which was picked up on the front page of Yahoo! How the fortune cookie crumbles Is Chinese food as American as apple pie? Jennifer 8. Lee discusses the strange evolution of everyone’s favorite ethnic food. By Nina Lalli Mar. 11, 2008 | As a teenager, New […]

    Boston Globe: An author’s quest for identity.

    Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

    Emily Schwab writes a lovely piece today in The Boston Globe about me and my quest for identity through Chinese food. I met with Emily last November during my pre-pub tour at Changsho in Cambridge and we had a lovely time. So this is one of the longest pieces in development on this book.

    The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, in Chinese!

    Saturday, March 8th, 2008

    So The World Journal (the largest Chinese language newspaper in the country) ran a piece on me earlier in the week. (My mom did send them a press release, though. Yay moms) 美國新聞 中國菜緊緊抓住美國胃 李競新書「幸運籤餅記事」:中國菜的故事反映美國的故事 【本 報訊】最新一期「新聞周刊」報導,美國人愛吃中國菜,但正如 「紐約時報」記者李競 (Jennifer 8. Lee)在新書「幸運籤餅記事」(The Fortune Cookie Chronicles)所描述的那樣,美國人所謂的中國菜,就連許多中國人都不認得。其中,雜碎根本是美國發明的,而幸運籤餅則來自日本,就連美國最大的 中餐館供應業者Kari-Out製造的豆漿,也根本不是大豆做的。 李競指出,中國菜的吸引力來自它的雙重性質:既有地域性又有普遍性,來自外國而又熟悉。它讓美國人可以放心嚐新,卻仍可固守自己的文化傳統。 雖然中餐館遍布韓國、祕魯、印度、日本、墨西哥和牙買加等中國移民;多的地區,可是誰都無法與美國人對中國菜的熱愛相提並論。 美國人這麼喜愛這種沒有真正族裔性質的「族裔」料理,其原因來自:隨著大批移民引進,從而演變成融合各種文化矛盾的大雜燴,而中國菜在美國的故事也恰恰在許多方面反映出美國本身的故事。 自從一八四○ – 一八五○年代的淘金熱以來,中國移民源源不斷來到美國,但種族偏見使他們只能當礦工和鐵路工人,以及做「煮飯、洗衣這些不威脅白人勞工的女人工作」。因此,在1885年紐約市只有六家中餐館,20年後則迅速增加到一百多家。 李 競說,現在來到美國的移民,如果非法居留且又不懂英文,就很可能來到紐約華埠,並透過這裡的職業介紹所到全美各地中餐館打工。他們對這些餐館裡賣的中國菜 一定覺得不可思議。李競說,道地中國菜經常帶骨、帶殼,全魚連眼睛都會保留,比較多青菜,比較少肉和少油,更不會有五彩繽紛的醬料。 她說: […]

    NYTBR: Wok On and podcast!

    Saturday, March 8th, 2008

    The New York Times Book Review runs its review of my book this Sunday by Jan and Michael Stern. It’s already online now and it actually closed 10 days ago, on a Wednesday. (The Book Review, like the Magazine, has a incredible close-to-distribution lag, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me but may involve […]

    Wisconsin Public Radio on the origin of the fortune cookie

    Saturday, March 8th, 2008

    Here is the mp3 of an interview I did on the origin of the fortune cookie on Wisconsin Public Radio a week ago, along with Eric Hagiwara, for their Friday food program. (I know. Delay. Book craziness. Why else am I catching up on blogging on a Saturday morning at 6 a.m.?!). They liked me […] Eight things you didn’t know about Chinese food

    Wednesday, March 5th, 2008, in advance of an online chat I will do today at 4 p.m., put up a nice slideshow called 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Chinese Food. (see my pictures of the chow mein sandwich and the Chinese hot dog!)

    Newsweek! An interview at Tang Pavilion

    Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

    Newsweek has a pretty lengthy feature in their books section this week by Jennie Yabroff (who asked really engaged questions about immigrations and bigger thoughts, where I really had to think, like didn’t have stock answers for). For the interview, we went to Tang Pavilion, near the MoMA in Midtown East, which is known for […]

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