Photo essay shows what it looks like to grow up in a Chinese restaurant in rural America

Illustration for article titled Photo essay shows what it looks like to grow up in a Chinese restaurant in rural America
Photo: Dan Kitwood (Getty Images)

Hannah Yoon is a photojournalist who lives in Ontario. On trips to visit her husband’s family in rural Pennsylvania, she writes that she’d become more aware of her racial otherness when surrounded by the mostly white faces of those communities. It made her wonder about the racial minorities who lived there, and eventually her curiosity resulted in this photo essay for The Outline.


She decides to focus on the children of a family who owns a Chinese restaurant in Portage, Pennsylvania. She explores their everyday moments in the restaurant, which is both a place of business and of play for the three kids. The writing is spare and objective, not drawing many conclusions or passing judgment. Yoon’s photos show the children eating dinner—steamed fish and rice, even when they request pizza or burgers—playing around the restaurant’s soda refrigerator, and helping answer the phone at the restaurant.

“The popularity of American Chinese food has created a set of shared experiences among Chinese American children growing up in local Chinese restaurants,” Yoon writes. “What I found most remarkable about these children’s lives were the tensions created by overlapping spaces; the restaurant is both a place of connection and isolation, home and work, playground and business.”

See Hannah Yoon’s full photo essay at The Outline.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.



I formed a fantastic relationship with the folks at the Chinese restaurant near where I use to work in rural PA. They would give me the good tea and rice, let me sit with them when I ate lunch as it was slow then, and the manager tried to set me up with his cousin because she thought I was cute (she’d dive behind the booth wall in the separate section when I’d come in because she was embarrassed). They were the BEST people to go to the movies with as they some how smuggled 2 family sized bags of chip, 2 two-liter bottles of soda, fried rice, noodles, and left over pork ribs in a pair of cargo pants and pocket book.