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

Photo: Dan Kitwood (Getty Images)
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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 managing editor at The Takeout and a certified beer judge.

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