Minority journalists
Thumbnail Image

2008.041.005 Oral History Interview with Jennifer 8. Lee

A New York native and Metro reporter for The New York Times, Jennifer 8. Lee is also the author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, a book investigating the history of Chinese food in the U.S. and around the world. “The point of my research was to make people think twice about what it means to be American. There’s a part of being an outsider in America yet being an insider,” she says. Lee was fascinated with the number 8 during middle school because of its symmetry and its meaning of prosperity in Chinese. Despite excelling in mathematics and science, Lee became a writer after serving as co-editor in chief of her high school newspaper and participating in a summer program for minority high school students to encourage them to pursue journalism. Through this summer program, she came to understand that diversity was essential to ensuring different experiences. Growing up speaking Mandarin and studying it in college, Lee has a deeper understanding of the lengths people will go to sacrifice for their families. She recognized the role of being both an outsider and an insider in America, telling stories through established institutions with a unique perspective. Lee wrote a book titled, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, on Chinese American food and its history. She realized that fortune cookies weren’t Chinese, which inspired her to explore what it means to be American. Lee ends by showing her appreciation for journalism versatility and embracing her unique Asian American identity.