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 77)
Berkeley, California, U.S.
  • Playwright
  • novelist
  • writer
Nationality American
Alma mater University of California, Santa Barbara
University of California, Berkeley
Notable works The Year of the Dragon (1974)
Aiiieeeee! (1974)
Donald Duk (1991)
Notable awards

American Book Award
(1982, 1989, 2000)[1]

1992 Lannan Literary Award for Fiction
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]

Early in his career, Chin worked as a story editor and scriptwriter on Sesame Street.[7]

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




Works in anthologies[edit]

  • Food for All His Dead, in The Young American Writers (1967) (Richard Kostelanetz, ed.) ISBN 0-932360-04-1
  • Goong Hai Fot Choi, in 19 Necromancers from Now (1970) (Ishmael Reed ed.) OCLC 603510235
  • Racist Love in Seeing Through Shuck (1972) co-authored with Jeffery Paul Chan (Richard Kostelanetz, ed.) ISBN 0345026764
  • Food for All His Dead, in Asian-American Authors (1972) (Kai-yu Hsu and Helen Palubinskas, ed.) ISBN 0395240395
  • The Year of the Dragon (excerpt), in Modern American Scenes for Student Actors (1978) (Wynn Handman, ed.) ISBN 0-553-14559-2
  • How to Watch a Chinese Movie with the Right "i" in Bamboo Ridge Press Number Five: New Moon (December 1979-February 1980)
  • Confessions of a Chinatown Cowboy (excepts), in American Childhoods: An Anthology (1987) (David W. McCullough, ed.) ISBN 031655544
  • The Only Real Day, in The Before Columbus Foundation Fiction Anthology, Selections from the American Book Awards 1980–1990 (1992) ISBN 0-393-30832-4
  • Railroad Standard Time, in Growing Up Asian American: An Anthology (1993) (Maria Hong, ed.) ISBN 0688112668
  • Yes, Young Daddy, in Coming of age in America : a multicultural anthology (1994) (Mary Frosch, ed.) ISBN 9781565841468
  • The Mother "I" (excerpt from Gunga Din Highway), in On a Bed of Rice: An Asian American Erotic Feast (1995) (Geraldine Kudaka, ed.) ISBN 9780385476409
  • Rendezvous, in Asian American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology (1996) (Shawn Wong, ed.) ISBN 978-0673469779
  • Railroad Standard Time, in Growing Up Ethnic in America (1999) (Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan, ed.) ISBN 0-14-028063-4
  • Pidgin Contest Along I-5, in Writing Home: Award-Winning Literature from the New West (1999) (Brian Bouldrey, ed.) ISBN 9781890771225
  • Donald Duk (excerpt), in Asian-American Literature: An Anthology (1999) (Shirley Geok-lin Lim, ed.) ISBN 0844217298
  • The Chickencoop Chinaman (excerpt), in Monologues for Actors of Color: Men (2000) (Roberta Uno, ed.) ISBN 9780878300709
  • Railroad Standard Time, in Bold Words: A Century of Asian American Writing (2001) (Rajini Srikanth, ed.) ISBN 0813529662
  • The Only Real Day, in American Short Stories since 1945 (2001) (John G. Parks ed.) ISBN 0195131320
  • Pearl Harbor Revisited, in Asian Americans on War & Peace (2002) (Russell Leong and Don Nakanishi ed.) ISBN 9780934052368
  • Pidgin Contest Along I-5, in Crossing Into America: The New Literature of Immigration (2003) (Louis Mendoza and Subramanian Shankar, ed.) ISBN 9781565847200
  • An Introduction to Chinese- and Japanese-American Literature, in From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas, 1900-2002 (2003) co-authored with Jeffery Paul Chan, Lawson Fusao Inada, and Shawn Wong (Ishmael Reed ed.) ISBN 1560254580
  • Come All Ye Asian American Writers of the Real and the Fake (excerpt), in A Companion to Asian American Studies (2005) (Kent A. Ono, ed.) ISBN 9780470996928


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.[9][10] 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.[11]


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 researched and hosted Chinaman's Chance (1972) an Ene Riisna directed documentary focusing on the conditions of Chinatown communities in America. Interview subjects included Roland Winters, Betty Lee Sung, and Ben Fee.

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.

Theatre Communications Group produced the Legacy Leaders of Color Video Project, a series highlighting influential figures in the American minority theatres. Set to be released in 2017, one of the episodes focuses on Frank Chin, his time with the Asian American Theater Company, and Chin's influence.[12]

See also[edit]



External links[edit]