Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Donald Duk tells a thought-provoking story of a fifth-generation Chinese American boy, Donald Duk, who awakens from the trauma caused by a racial stereotype perpetuated by the majority culture and decides to challenge it. Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the events in the novel are related from a perspective authentically Chinese American and in a language uniquely fast-paced, humorous, and witty. Skillfully incorporated into these events are history, surrealistic dreams, psychological probings, and social realism. As with any other literary work with racial issues as its subject matter, this novel will inevitably cause some interesting discussions among its readers on such topics as racial identity and stereotypes, acculturation and assimilation, uniformity and diversity.

Donald Duk is troubled by his name. People laugh at him, thinking that he is named after the Disney cartoon character. He soon learns to deal with them, taking them by surprise by joining them in laughing at his name. Yet, there is another problem that he cannot get rid of with laughter—his identity as a Chinese American. Repeatedly, he has heard people at school and in the media claim that Chinese Americans are traditionally timid and passive, introverted and unassertive; therefore, they lack the very qualities that are thought to constitute heroism and a pioneering spirit in the United States. Believing what he has been told, Donald lives in a state of self-contempt and self-rejection, with a...

(The entire section is 609 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Chen, Jack. The Chinese of America. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980.

Cheng, Scarlet. Review of Donald Duk, by Frank Chin. Small Press 9 (Spring, 1991): 87. A brief review that introduces the novel’s main characters, with a glimpse of its story line.

Chin, Frank. “West Meets East: A Conversation with Frank Chin.” Interview by Robert Murray Davis. Amerasia Journal 24 (Spring, 1998): 87-103. Chin comments that when he started to write, he wanted to blend Chinese fairy tales with the everyday experience of a Chinese American adolescent, as well as present Chinese-American life in a positive way. He offers valuable comments on his novels.

Davis, Robert Murray. “World Literature in Review: English.” World Literature Today 65 (Autumn, 1991): 715. Davis offers a brief review and analysis of Chin’s novel. He finds that the book “presents a warmer picture of Chinatown life and a more hopeful vision of the possibility of development.” He praises the novel and concludes that “it deserves to be read on its own merits as a lively and masterful piece of storytelling.”

Haven, Tom De. “He’s Been Dreaming on the Railroad.” The New York Times Book Review 96 (March 31, 1991): 9. Using illustrative detail from the novel, Haven focuses on Donald’s...

(The entire section is 433 words.)