Frank Chew Chin, Jr., was born a fifth-generation Californian of Chinese American parentage on February 25, 1940, in Berkeley, California, near Oakland, where his parents lived and worked. During his infancy, his family sent him to the sierra, where he was cared for by a retired vaudeville acrobat and a silent-film bit player. After World War II, he rejoined his family and grew up in the Chinatowns of Oakland and San Francisco, attending Chinese as well as English schools. During these years, he identified closely with his father, who was prominent in Chinatown governance and who became the president of the Six Companies (roughly the Chinatown equivalent of being elected mayor). Chin was graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, where he won several prizes for fiction writing; during his student years, he undertook the adventure of traveling to Fidel Castro’s Cuba. In 1961, he was awarded a fellowship at the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.
After leaving Iowa, Chin spent some time with the Southern Pacific Railroad, becoming the first Chinese American to work as a brakeman on the rails laid by his forefathers. Chin left the railroad company to become a writer-producer for KING-TV in Seattle, and several of his shows were aired by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and on Sesame Street.
Chin left Seattle to teach Asian American studies at San Francisco State University and the University of California,...
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