“The Sons of Chan” is the last story in Chin’s short-story collection The Chinaman Pacific and Frisco R.R. Co. Chin’s stories are the most stylistically idiosyncratic of his writings. Their prose is dense, allusive, and layered. In keeping with this individualism in style is the way that, in many of the stories, the protagonist concocts a subjective mythology. In the earlier The Chickencoop Chinaman, the hapless hero had tried to remold American pop iconography to his own ends; in the later Donald Duk, the hero locates a sustaining mythology by discovering forgotten pages from the Chinese past. In “The Sons of Chan,” however, the hero dreams up his own personalized fantasy world, which is centered on the existence of a secret brotherhood; the imaginary actions are intercut with the more realistic events of the story’s plot.
This brotherhood, The Sons of Chan, is made up of symbolic male children of Charlie Chan, that is, of Chinese American men who were crippled by media depictions of Asian sons. The vow of this order is to kill the actor who originally played Charlie Chan.
In the story, the symbolic attempt to break with the male stereotypes acquired in childhood intersects with the narrator’s attempt to face down, in the real world, an example of the female type who has been put forward as the only worthy object of desire by American popular culture. This culture never portrays desirable Asian women...
(The entire section is 475 words.)