From Ironing Board to Corporate Board:
My Chinese Laundry Experience in America

By Ginny Gong

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About the Book

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Growing up in the back of a Chinese laundry was a common way of life for those of us referred to as the “1.5” generation of immigrants. We came to this country at a very young age and were soon educated according to "western" philosophy. But our "eastern" home environment made it necessary for us to straddle two worlds and two generations. While our non-English speaking parents maintained their Asian identity, the children transitioned readily into the new culture. Although our perspectives may be more similar to that of second generation immigrants who were born in this country, our hearts are closely linked to the traditions and customs that are very much a part of first generation immigrants.

This is the story of an immigrant family’s survival experiences in their adopted country as well as the story of a community’s acculturation into American society. The operation of individually owned Chinese laundries (which also served as residences for most families) enabled the Chinese American community to live the American dream. In this autobiography, the struggles and challenges of a young immigrant girl’s emergence into adulthood is portrayed against the backdrop of a community’s integration into the fabric of America's multi-cultural society.

Schools and communities across the nation are quickly changing with the influx of immigrants. Whether it is the student in search of a book on the immigrant experience, the English-as-a-Second- Language (ESOL) learner in need of inspiration, the historian capturing the history of this nation, the Asian American studies enthusiast interested in greater familiarity with his/her heritage, or the teacher/parent hoping to broaden the scope of experiences for those under his/her care, this book is a must-read for all. Although tailored for the young adult reader, From Ironing Board to Corporate Board’s message is one that should resonant in the hearts and minds of anyone interested in the making of this great nation.

From the author: Identifying books that I could relate to was always a challenge when I was growing up. Although there were books about Asia and its people, books on the Asian American experience were seriously lacking. My hope is that this book fills that void and will be included in recommended and/or suggested reading lists of schools across this nation.

Montgomery County Public School System (MCPS) in Montgomery County, MD (199 schools), has approved From Ironing Board to Corporate Board for inclusion in curriculum and instruction.

From Ironing Board to Corporate Board has been nominated for the national Chinese American Librarians Association's (CALA) Award for Best New Book by a Chinese American Author in 2008.

About the Author

Ginny Gong Ginny immigrated to America at the age of six. She has a master's degree in education and was a teacher/administrator for more than two decades. She serves on a number of boards and commissions and is a frequently requested speaker. She is currently serving her fourth term as National President of OCA, a national pan-Asian American organization headquartered in Washington D.C. with 80 chapters and affiliates. Gong is also the host of a weekly television talk show, Ginny's . . .where East meets West, which is going into its 11th year.


"While I was transformed along with the world around me, my parents never changed. Going home during college break was always a walk down memory lane. It was wonderful to see Mama and Baba after having been away. Year after year, my parents were reminders to me that there are parts of me that would, and should, never change. My roots started in the laundry as a Chinese immigrant and that is where my heart will always be. The wings that I found after leaving for college have provided me with the freedom to be 'me,' but those wings have also been successful in bringing me back home."

. . . . . . .

"Cow's brain was known to have the capability to cure headaches and if anyone of us complained about having headaches, Mama would ask Baba to bring back a package of cow's brain from the Chinese supermarket in Chinatown. This was added to fresh chicken and simmered over low heat for hours. Once we knew what went into the soup, we rarely complained of headaches."


"Ginny's journey from the ironing board of a Chinese hand laundry to corporate boards and public service is a story of transformations…. She is the embodiment of the American dream come true. "
George Takei, Actor

"I recomend this book not only to the young readers who are interested in learning about the experiences of immigrants but also to those who study the history of immigration . . . . It deserves a place in every library and personal reading list."
Dr. Hwa-Wei Lee, Chief of Asian Division,the Library of Congress

"Heartbreaking, and yet heartwarming . . . ."
William Poy Lee, Author

"This modest memoir is a gem of an introduction to the lives of Chinese Americans and other hard working immigrant parents and their children . . . ."
Franklin Odo, Director, Smithsonian Institute

"Ginny's journey isn't just a simple affirmation of the traditional values of growing up in a Chinese laundry, but a perceptive account of American life with all its opportunities, complexities, and injustices yet to be corrected."
Gary Mar, Director, Stony Brook

"This is a delightful story of a Chinese American girl who is the thread that holds together the patchwork of America." Veronica Li, Author

"This book is a powerful and honest account of an American heroine's negotiations through life as a perpetual foreigner . . . ."
Michael Lin, Past President, OCA

"This book is a beacon to all immigrant youngsters . . . ."
Betty Lee Sung, Author, Professor

Reviews for the Book

Podcast with Sarah Long on Library Beat: Longshots #131 - Ginny Gong
December 2, 2008

Article from Daily Harald: "Chinese Immigrant goes from Ironing Board to Corporate Board"
By Sara Long, December 7, 2008

Article from Asian Fortune: "Ginny Gong, From Ironing Board to Corporate Board, Ginny Gong’s Latest Feather in Her Cap: Author".
By Jennie L. Ilustre, December 6, 2008

For Educators

Montgomery County Public School System (MCPS) in Montgomery County, MD (199 schools), has approved From Ironing Board to Corporate Board for inclusion in curriculum and instruction.

Download Discussion Questions for Teachers.

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