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Donald Duk Paperback – January 1, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press; First Edition edition (January 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0918273838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0918273833
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #497,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The eponymous narrator of this first novel, which bulldozes stereotypes about supposed Chinese timidity and passivity, isn't a cartoon character but a smart 12-year-old Chinese-American boy who, with all the vehemence and certainty of youth, spits on everyone and everything Chinese. Although his female characters are underdeveloped and often the humor is broad and seems to exclude its audience, Chin's descriptions are acute and gifted, vivifying the virtuoso technique of Donald's father, who fashions 108 model airplanes--named for Chinese outlaw heroes--that he plans to launch and set afire during the Chinese New Year celebration, and Donald's nighttime dreams, which cast him as an underaged railroad builder in 1869 California, one of 1200 unheralded Chinese workers. The New Year festival in San Francisco's Chinatown becomes Donald's rite of passage and doorway to self-acceptance and -respect; Donald and the reader find themselves on an odyssey that is at once stinging and seductive, reclaiming the exquisite myths of a beautiful and proud ancient civilization. Chin wrote the short-fiction collection The Chinaman Pacific this is correct/pk & Frisco R.R. Co.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In San Francisco's Chinatown, a boy's 12th Chinese New Year is a momentous occasion, but Donald feels cranky about the holiday, annoyed by his comical name, and by all things Chinese. Over the festive days, folklore, Donald's singular family, and his alluring dreams of the historic completion of the Central Pacific Railroad by Chinese workers in 1869 draw him to a new, emphatic racial pride. A California-based playwright, poet, and outspoken critic against Chinese-American stereotypes, Chin spices his first novel with a flip, clipped, present-tense narrative voice, slapstick dialog, and kinetic dreamscapes. The result is a tart social comment packed into a cartoon, with verbal energy verging on hyperactivity. Recommended for contemporary, regional, and YA fiction collections.
- Janet Ingraham, Spartanburg Cty. P.L., S.C.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
I LOVED this book when I first read it. I am Korean-American and very much into race politics but that's not the reason I loved this book. First of all, it is simply an entertaining, well done book. It deals with racism in a head-on more REALISTIC way that many Asian-Americans and other minorities could probably identify with. It simply portrays a Chinese-American boy in Chinatown and how he deals with being Chinese-American. Though I don't really agree with Frank Chin's philosophies I do appreciate this book. It's not perfect, but its REAL and it's good to hear a clear voice of an Asian-American speaking about being Asian-American without much pretense or political correctness. Let's face it, there are not a lot of books aimed at Asian-American youth or about Asian-American youth (especially not *written* by other Asian-Americans). The ones that are out there (and believe me, I've read most of them) are not that well done. In fact, a lot of them stink. I think a lot of crap gets printed just because the author is 'Asian-American' or deals with the 'Asian-American experience' and there aren't a lot of books filling that void. However, 'Donald Duk' is not an example of this. For a teenage Asian-American, this book is refreshing and maybe even revolutionary. I thoroughly recommend this book to any Asian-American of any age. C'mon, it's practically considered a 'modern classic' of Asian-American literature. It's an enjoyable read and you'll be glad you did. Even if you hate it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jaydekitten on June 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
First of all, I am surprised that not many people have read or even heard of this book. Why is it that America eats up all the stereotypical, sell-out Asian-American literature and denies something as real and tangible as Frank Chin's "Donald Duk"? Instead we are force-fed Amy Tan. And don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading Amy Tan, she is a very engaging writer, however, the average reader does not know where to draw the line between fiction and fact. They assume that because Amy Tan is Asian, every word that spills across the pages of her works is the solid truth. It is important for people to understand this distinction before reading any literature, lest they mistake fiction writing for truth and buy into the stereotypes presented by the author. Unfortunately, most people cannot make this distinction and their knowledge of Asian/Asian-American culture is limited to what they read in "The Joy Luck Club" and other such works.

Whew! That was quite a rant :) Back to the review:

Frank Chin is NOT Amy Tan. On the surface, "Donald Duk" presents itself as a light-hearted, comedic read. In fact, the entire premise of this novel seems silly, as do the characters. However, beneath the surface lie some serious questions about culture, identity, and racism. With its rich portrayal of history and culture, "Donald Duk" challenges the abundant stereotypes and misrepresented histories often present in American culture. Paired with Chin's vibrant and crisp writing style (It took me a few pages before I warmed-up to his style, but once I did I was hooked), the end result is a novel that manages to be eye-opening without being preachy. A feat that is seldom accomplished. I don't say this often, but I love this book. "Donald Duk" is an entertaining, albeit important, novel that should be introduced to more readers.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
Donald Duk is an excellent book for ALL readers, not just Asians. I'm an African American woman and I found the book insightful and eye-opening. The book made me realize that as a minority you forget that you're not the only one who has to deal with daily prejudices and embarassment because you wish you could for one day be the majority. I recommend this book for everyone, not just for minorities but for the majority as well. I read this book as part of an English class in college.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
A strong and complex male lead, great dialogue, and the heroic tradition - all make this novel vintage Frank Chin. Meet Donald Duk who believes Chinese can never be Americans because they're too "passive" and "non-competitive." Meet his father, King Duk, who wishes "Pearl Buck was alive and walk into my restaurant so I can cut out her heart and liver." Meet Kwan the Coolie worker who will not bow down to the White racist's ways. And meet Kwan Kung, the best representation of what it means to be Chinese. You want a great intoduction of why Chinese do the things they do? Read this book. Want to know what Chinese New Year is like? Read this book. Want a book that is REALLY Chinese and not a fake one? Read this book. Want a book that tells the REAL story about the Coolie workers? Read this book. Want to know how it's like being in a Chinese Opera? Read this book. I'm proud of being Chinese after reading DONALD DUK.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Thomas on January 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a chinese teen this book is almost a perfect description of my life. Frank Chin is obviously a true chinese because he knows the history, the lore, the traditions, and the stories. It is refreshing to have an asian american writer who doesn't turn on their culture to make a quick buck.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bradley on September 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
Growing up, there was always that one person you wanted to be. That one person you were reminded of everyday in the media that seemed so much more glamorous than your average lifestyle. For Donald Duk, being Chinese wasn't quite satisfying enough. He dreamt about being Fred Astaire, his Americanized idol. The whole novel bases its message on being happy with what you got, something I feel important growing up in a self-centered America.

Donald is a 12 year old boy living in the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco. His life experiences are similar to the stereotyped foreigner. He gets made fun of by the Chinatown bullies, leaving him with no self-respect and dignity for himself. He realizes the stereotypical aspects of American-Chinese and it drives him to unhealthily hate himself. I think the message of this book can reach out to so many people who are in similar situations with their social life.

The novel puts Donald in a period of life where self image starts to become an important thing. I could really connect to this because around the same period of my life, this was also important. He wants to just be American so bad that he has negativity for all things Chinese. Hatred is found in several ways including food, culture, and way of life. He hates the weird foods; he hates the embarrassing, easy to baffle names including his. Donald is constantly being made fun of by his ridiculous link to the Walt Disney Donald Duck. Even his mother's name is Daisy. He even hates his uncle who performs Chinese opera seldom at him school; imagine that. Even his best friend appreciates the culture more than he does. Basically he would do anything to be anything but Chinese. I know I've been so ungrateful at times.
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