Frank Chin

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Frank Chin
Frank Chin in his San Francisco apartment in 1975.jpg
Born (1940-02-25) February 25, 1940 (age 76)
Berkeley, California, U.S.
  • Playwright
  • novelist
  • writer
Nationality American
Ethnicity Chinese
Alma mater University of California, Santa Barbara
University of California, Berkeley
Notable works The Year of the Dragon
Donald Duk
Notable awards American Book Award
(1982, 1989, 2000)[1]
Spouse Kathy Change (div.)

Frank Chin (born February 25, 1940) is an American author and playwright. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of Asian-American theatre.

Life and career[edit]

Frank Chin was born in Berkeley, California on February 25, 1940; until the age of six, he remained under the care of a retired Vaudeville couple in Placerville, California.[2] At that time, his mother brought him back to the San Francisco Bay Area and thereafter Chin grew up in Oakland Chinatown.[2][3] He attended the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1965.[2] He has won three American Book Awards: the first in 1982 for his plays The Chickencoop Chinaman and The Year of the Dragon, the second in 1989 for a collection of short stories titled The Chinaman Pacific and Frisco R.R. Co., and the third in 2000 for lifetime achievement.[1]

Chin is considered to be one of the pioneers of Asian-American theatre. He founded the Asian American Theatre Workshop, which became the Asian American Theater Company in 1973. He first gained notoriety as a playwright in the 1970s. His play The Chickencoop Chinaman was the first by an Asian American to be produced on a major New York stage. Stereotypes of Asian Americans, and traditional Chinese folklore are common themes in much of his work. Frank Chin has accused other Asian American writers, particularly Maxine Hong Kingston, of furthering such stereotypes and misrepresenting the traditional stories. Chin, during his professional career, has been highly critical of American writer, Amy Tan, for her telling of Chinese-American stories, indicating that her body of work has furthered and reinforced stereotypical views of this group. On a radio program, Chin has also debated the scholar Yunte Huang regarding the latter's evaluation of Charlie Chan in his writing.[4] This discussion was later evaluated on the activist blog "Big WOWO."[5]

In addition to his work as an author and playwright, Frank Chin has also worked extensively with Japanese American resisters of the draft in WWII. His novel, Born in the U.S.A., is dedicated to this subject. Chin was one of several writers (Jeffery Paul Chan, Lawson Fusao Inada, and Shawn Wong of CARP, Combined Asian American Resources Project) who worked to republish John Okada's novel No-No Boy in the 1970s; Chin contributed an afterward which can be found in every reprinting of the novel. Chin was also an instrumental organizer for the first Day of Remembrance.

Chin is also a musician. In the mid-1960s, he taught Robbie Krieger, a member of The Doors, how to play the flamenco guitar.[6]

Frank Chin in San Francisco, 1975
Frank Chin in San Francisco. Photo by Nancy Wong 1975.




Works in Anthologies[edit]


The Year of the Dragon was an adaptation of Chin's play of the same name. Starring George Takei, the film was televised in 1975 as part of the PBS Great Performances series.

As an actor, Chin, appeared as an extra in the riot scene of the made-for-TV movie adaptation of Farewell to Manzanar.[8][9] Chin was one of several Asian American writers who appeared in the movie; Shawn Wong and Lawson Fusao Inada, who, like Chin were co-editors of the anthology Aiiieeeee!, also acted in the riot scene.

A snapshot from director John Korty's "Farewell to Manzanar." Chin is in the foreground, with Lawson Inada directly behind. Photo by Nancy Wong 1976.

Chin would go on to criticize the movie in the May 1976 issue of Mother Jones.[10]


What's Wrong with Frank Chin is a 2005 biographical documentary, directed by Curtis Choy, about Chin's life.

Frank Chin was interviewed in the documentary The Slanted Screen (2006), directed by Jeff Adachi, about the representation of Asian and Asian American men in Hollywood.

Chin wrote the script for the 1967 documentary, And Still Champion! The Story of Archie Moore. Chin's script was narrated by actor Jack Palance. Some of Chin's experiences would be worked into his first play, in which the protagonist is making a documentary about a boxer.

Chin also directed a documentary short in 1972, The Last Temple about the Taoist temple in Hanford, California which dates back to 1893, and the effort to preserve and restore it.

See also[edit]



External links[edit]