September 2022 Arts & LettersA Conversation with Author Debbie Chinn

September 2022 Arts & Letters – A Conversation with Author Debbie Chinn

Arts & Letters – Debbie Chinn

The livestream of our September 2022 Arts & Letters features host Ginna BB Gordon having a conversation with author Debbie Chinn, who also reads from her recent memoir. Register to listen and participate here.

Debbie Chinn’s distinguished 30-year career as an arts activist, non-profit consultant, and CEO of major arts organizations has been distinguished by her efforts to champion equity and inclusion.

In this online conversation, Debbie talks about her book, Dancing in Their Light: A Daughter’s Unfinished Memoir. It’s the story of a proud daughter of immigrant parents, growing up and performing in her family’s renowned Polynesian nightclub. Furthermore, she showcases the legacy of her family’s many contributions to the American cultural and international scientific landscape – from moo shu pork to NASA’s “vomit comet.”

She initially intended to document her family’s remarkable journey as immigrants in New York. But with the renewed rise in anti-immigrant and anti-Asian vitriol, Debbie felt it was especially timely to share what one family could do to assimilate, make significant contributions, and bridge themselves to the larger American culture in an era when the Chinese were not welcome.

Quote from the Author

“Growing up in a restaurant and nightclub, selling cigarettes at the age of three, working as a bartender’s helper at the age of six, and spending my weekends performing during my teenage years are naturally good fodder for a memoir. There aren’t many people whose childhood included learning how to walk on fire…” (from the book)



The proud daughter of Chinese immigrants, Debbie Chinn was born and raised on Long Island, New York. While other children participated in sleep-overs, summer camps, and sports activities, Debbie’s childhood was spent at The House of Mah Jong. Because this was her family’s Chinese restaurant, she entered the workforce at the age of three…selling cigarettes. Over time, her responsibilities expanded. Therefore, she sat on a bar stool inserting umbrellas into cherries and pineapple slices for an assortment of exotic drinks by the age of six.

Inspired by her childhood experiences, Debbie established a distinguished 30 year career as an arts activist, non-profit consultant, and CEO. As a result, she has led some of the country’s most renowned cultural institutions and their programs. She has long championed equity and inclusion; to that end, she has an insatiable appetite for forging bridges via the arts, humanities, and cultural heritage.

For more information about Debbie Chinn, visit

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