Donald Duk Critical Context (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series) - Essay

Frank Chin

Critical Context (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series)

Donald Duk was Frank Chin’s first novel, though he had already established himself as a major voice in Asian American literature as the author of two critically acclaimed plays, The Chickencoop Chinaman (1972) and The Year of the Dragon (1974). He had also written a collection of short fiction, The Chinaman Pacific and Frisco R.R. Co. (1988), which won him the American Book Award. He is also known as one of the editors of the pioneering work Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian American Writers (1974).

Like Chin’s plays and short fiction, Donald Duk dramatizes the themes and conflicts that have become central to his vision of the Chinese American experience. Using a twelve-year-old Chinese American boy as the protagonist, Chin explores the problems of forging a new Chinese American identity. He also explodes ethnic stereotype as he lashes out at white historians for their distorted views of Chinese American history. Written in colloquial English, the novel follows the rhythmic patterns of spoken Cantonese, lending verisimilitude to the story.

A versatile writer, Chin has written poetry, criticism, film scripts, essays, articles, and reviews as well as plays and fiction. His work has appeared in many newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. Despite the polemical nature of his work, he is in the vanguard of the new generation of Asian American writers who are emerging from years of communal and cultural neglect and making an impact on American literature.