Donald Duk is approaching his twelfth birthday, as Chinatown in San Francisco prepares for the Chinese New Year. Donald, in turning twelve, will have come full circle by completing his first twelve-year cycle in the Asian lunar zodiac of animal signs. In honor of this event Donald’s father, King Duk, a leading Chinatown chef and businessman, has invited Uncle Donald Duk and a Cantonese opera company to visit and perform. Donald daily crosses between American subcultures, from the ethnic enclave of Chinatown to his elite private day school, while imagining himself as a present-day Fred Astaire, tap-dancing through movie scenes.
Donald’s family, upholding the Chinese value of hosting guests, friends, and family during the Chinese New Year, invites Donald’s Caucasian friend and schoolmate Arnold Azalea to visit. Donald’s family, especially his father and uncle, take the opportunity to explain Chinese behavioral patterns and values to Arnold. The boy appreciates these explanations, but Donald himself remains generally bored or embarrassed by his native Chinese culture.
Donald is fascinated with the 108 model airplanes that King Duk is building, emblematic of the 108 outlaw heroes of The Water Margin, a traditional Chinese legend. However, Donald is aghast when he learns that his father plans not to keep them but to set them afire and launch them from Angel Island in San Francisco Bay at the end of the Chinese New Year’s celebration. Past midnight before the dawn of the first day of the New Year, Donald takes one of the smallest model planes, a P26-A Peashooter and goes to the roof of their building in Chinatown, where he meets the bizarre renegade hermit, American Kong. Donald lights the fuse of the plane and watches it flare out.
Donald is seen by the elderly Frog Twins, his neighbors, on the street during his larcenous indulgence of shooting off the plane. They do not seem to inform on him; instead, they buy a kit for him to use to replace the plane. However, his theft is noticed almost immediately by both his father and his uncle, even as his mother purchases a second replacement kit for him to complete. The situation is used by Uncle Donald Duk and by...
(The entire section is 897 words.)