Sunday, June 05, 2016

REAL & FAKE JOHN OKADA

New York's Pan Asian is throwing a White racist fraud to lure Yellows to see how much Tisa Chang and Ken Narasaki hate John Okada’s NO-NO BOY, in the much publicized unauthorized rewrite of his finished work. The Pan Asian pitch is stupid doubletalk. Worse. it's ignorant about art and authorship.

TISA CHANG SAYS: “N0-NO BOY is especially topical in this election year, wherethe questions of allegiance and what it means to be an American are asked again.”

KEN NAGASAKI SAYS ”EVEN TODAY, THE TERM (NO-NO BOY) CAN SPARK BITTER EXPLOSIONS AMONGST PEOPLE WHO REMAIN ANGRY ABOUT THE KINDS OF REAL LIFE ARE DEATH DECISIONS THEY AND THEIR GENERATION WERE FORCED TO MAKE…"

"Their generation were forced to make?" racist pyschobabble. Individuals, one by one, mind by mind, decides to go along with the crowd or decide something else. The divisions in the Japanese American community are between the treacherous JACL since 1929 and the oppressive USGov divided by differing USinterests, and the oppressed fools who don’t join the JACL. If the Jews want to know what a successful program of racial annihilation looks like, look to the Japs become today’s Japanese Americans.

Tisa Chang and Narasaki don’t know what they’re talking about. Citizens are not required to give their allegiance to anybody for anything at any time. Allegiance is defined by the master who demands the surrender of individual will to the master. The oath is judged by the master, not the soldier. Sun Tzu says: All religious practices are banned. Follow the leader. Even in Asia one cannot give an oath without being there and saying something, or signing something. That's the definition of an oath. The grammar is the same east and west. Oath is out of the mouth.

 The JACL declared itself secret agents of the gov over L.A. radio on December 7,1941. Mike Masaoka rhetorically “conscripted” the JACL into the JACL before congress in 1942, asked for concentration camps and status in the administration of the camps, and accepted his people’s guilt. 

Minoru Yasui asked Masaoka to stand for Nisei right and Masaoka jealously refused to stand for the law, and said good publicity was more important than the law.

Narasaki brags about his rejection of the last of the draft resisters still alive and fighting for a Japanese American call for the Supreme Court to rehear the case against the camps, for honor and arts sake. The Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee is the inevitable fruit of a serious read of Okada’s novel. The draft resisters from Heart Mountain were the only resistance group to be advised by a lawyer and forced Truman into admitting the JACL rules and the WRA rules against Japness were illegal. JA civil rights were never removed. The Nisei couldn’t sue the gov but the JACL is bleeding red meat of guilt. Why hasn’t Japanese America made their move? George Takei, Tisa Chang, and Ken Narasaki say in the voice of intimidation that they are the people. The Japs have no voice of inspiration speaking to what’s so great about Japanese America.

Tisa Chang’s Pan Asian Rep and Ken Narasaki showoff their contempt for Okada’s NO-NO BOY and use his name to make good White racist publicity and reap the White rewards for Yellow self-hatred.

There's still time before the election, Tisa Chang says. Yellows, at least show you know the difference between the real and the fake.

 FCC

Related:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Come meet Frank Chin!


Dear Readers,

Eddie here.  Just a heads up.  Frank Chin will be at the Oakland Book Festival this weekend, Sunday, May 22, 11:00AM-12:15PM.  Here's more information. Frank will be discussing his book The Confessions of a Number One Son.  Come on by and pay him a visit!

Monday, April 11, 2016

April is the Cruelest Month


On December 7th, 2015, Donald Trump likened the Muslims of today to the Japs of 1941. He suggested Muslims would come out of the camps, as docile and obedient and quiet as the Japanese did in when the last camp closed when Hector Watanabe, the last man interned and stripped of his Peruvian citizenship, walked out of,State Dept camp at Crystal City, Texas in 1949. The camps lasted longer than the JapaneseAmerican experts know.

Yellows of the Japanese persuasion have you tracked the talk on the tube about Japs since December 7th? And what did the JACL do then? What are they doing now? What's different?

As the dates roll on, the past comes clear. AA art of all the yellows is pretty disposable and cheap. Whites treat all the coloreds all the races with contempt for any idea of culture, and civilization that doesn't echo White supremacy. The Blacks have layers of art, culture and history reflected in their art, the Mexicans have a culture and history heard in their music. Other Browns, Burnt Sugar, and Light Coffees have arts of their own. Only the Yellows have smarts but no art that isn't repellent to White decency. Whatever that is. What art of a colored people isn’t repellant, laughable, and non-recognizable to the people being depicted in color on the Hollywood screen?

(Minoru Yasui)

YASUI, Minoru (1917-1988) "Why We Should Support Test Cases." Undated Mimeograph leaflet distributed inside Minidoka Relocation Center, by the Civil Liberties League.

"As a lawyer well founded upon the principles and theories as well as the intricacies of the law, and as an American citizen, I could not tolerate the illegal and unconstitutional efforts to wear away the right of American citizens. I strongly felt, and still believe , that it is the duty as American citizens to resist any infringement upon the basic principles of our nation.

"This is our duty as American citizens, as much as it to fight and die on the battlefronts in defence of our nation. We owe it to the men and boys who are fighting the war to preserve the thing that they are fighting for at home, so they can come back home to 'a land of the three and the home of the brave.'

-------."Good Law v. Good Publicity." April 17, 1942.
"THE BIG AIIIEEEEE!" ed by Chan, Chin, Inada & Wong. New York: Meridian. 1991. (pp 449-460) And in original mimeograph Seattle:Special Collections:University of Washington Library.

Yasui answers "JACL Bulletin 142" paragraph for paragraph.

(Mike Masaoka)

Masaoka had suggested Yasui ( his unnamed "self-styled martyr out to win headlines") was out to ursurp control of the JACL. The following suggests that Yasui expected the members of the JACL to support the idea of test cases and force a referendum on JACL policy:

However, it is submitted that whether or not such policy is actually conducive to the 'greatest good for the greatest number' is neverthertheless subject to questions, and moreover, althoguht the National can be convinced, thru legitmate means, that not only a substantial majority, but an overwhelming majority of the inidividual members, demand certain affirmative actions, that the National would be compelled to take such steps. If such effort is construed to be an usurpation of the preogatives of National, then it is submitted that National Headquarters would be failing in its primary function of representing the organization. ..."

Yasui argues that good law is more important than good publicity:

"If the National is willing to sacrifice certain fundamental rights of citizenship establishing a precedent whereby those rights may be deprived of American citizens without protest, then is it not possibly contributing to the destruction of the very fundamental basis of this country?...If it be tyranny to impose unreasonable restrictions upon the people upon the arbitrary and discriminatory basis of race, then it is just as shameful to submit to such unreasonable restrictions.
George Takei’s show on Broadway, set in the camps took offense. The Yellows doing the news all over the country, took no notice.

Trump started a day to day comparison of today’s news and news from 1941 into 42. The Japanese weren’t prepared for a repetition of 194 1, though that’s all that itches them all over.

February 18th passed without a peep leaking out of a Yellow politician, jurist, lawyer, newspaper artist. Roosevelt’s signing of EO-9066 is never a word said across Yellow lips. Lewis Milestone’s THE PURPLE HEART with Dana Andrews, Henry Hathaway’s WING AND A PRAYER, with Don Ameche, Delmer Daves’s DESTINATION TOKYO with Cary Grant and John Garfield are old movies as art and patriotism flashing from space into the electronic air of April.

The Koreans vs North Koreans and the Chinese didn’t make for good old movies. The Vietnam war against another Yellow country gave Whites old movies that question the White American self and doesn’t see the Yellows they look on with doubt.

February dribbled without intellectual activism or activity from the AA Studies from sea to shining sea into March.

The Japanese Hotel Association was a group of Issei who owned hotels for transients, railroad or cannery contract laborers for the salmon fisheries in Alaska. John Okada grew up with his family in a family run hotel. Monica Sone also grew up in a Pioneer Square hotel. The hotels were sealed ships at sea, and the Japanese owner manager was the captain. No female visitors allowed. They describe life in Seattle NihonMachi of the 30’s as pretty much like Guy Gabaldon growing up in Japanese-American L.A. of the 30’s in HELL TO ETERNITY is I REMEMBER MAMA set in strong family with a narrative sense of family and race and beyond.

APRIL IS THE CRUELEST MONTH-

April 1942- Minoru Yasui, in jail for violating the Army Curfew Order on all persons of Japanese ancestry, writes an appeal to the JACL for support of his case against the application of citizen’s civil rights being racially selective, that un-constitutionally allows for citizen Japs being singled out as pariahs.

It was in April Mike Masaoka, answered Yasui. He said JACL was against support of test cases at this time. Good publicity was more important than good law.

Mildred Bartholomew of the Portland YWCA writes the JACL asking why the JACL is not providing support for JACL member Min Yasui’s case testing the constitutionality of the Army’s orders. She is bewildered.

Okada answers lamely- also bewildered-and overwhelmed by Masaoka’s lie about Bendetsen’s speech to the San Francisco Commonwealth Club. Bendetsen had two plans. One if the JACL co-operates and another to round everybody up within 24 hours. An impossibility.

The un-doctored docs tell me Masaoka betrayed Min Yasui. Yasui was fighting the orders in court. Masaoka went against the civil rights he represented. He argued that good publicity was more urgent than good law. He could have separated supporting a JACL champion of Nisei civil rights, from the co-operation with the Army evacuation

OKADA, Hito. (1907-1984) "Letter on JACL Letterhead To: Miss Mildred Bartholomew c/o Young Womens Christian Ass'n, Broadway at Taylor Streets, Portland Oregon." Salt Lake: JACL National Headquarters. Dec. 4, 1942.

(The treasurer of the national JACL, Hito Okada tries to explain to an old friend, why the Portland JACL is following Mike Masaoka's direction to not support Portland's own Minoru Yasui's challenge of the curfew order:

Miss Mildred Bartholomew

c/o Young Women Christian Ass'n

Broadway at Taylor Street

Portland, Oregon

Dear Miss Bartholomew:

I received your letter of December 2nd and it does me good to know that our friends in Portland are with us. The Min Yasui's case and its resultant opinion handed down by Judge Fee was called to our attention while the Japanese American Citizens League was in a special emergency conference here in Salt Lake City with delegates from ten reloaction centers and also delegates from our free zone chapters.

Many of our members are sympthetic to Min on the steps he is taking to test the constitutionality of the curfew as pertaining to American citizens.

Briefly stating the J.A.C.L. stand on the matter of evacuation, we opposed evacuation up until it was decreed that there was military necessity for it and that the Army would take the necessary steps. Professing as we did that we were good Americans, there was no alternative for us but to prove our loyalty by cooperating with the evacuation. As Bendetson stated in one of his speeches, the Army had two plans as to evacuation, 1st , the plan that was followed through, and 2nd, evacuation of all Japanese within 24 hours if it was so required.

I sincerely believe that our cooperation with the Army and other governmental agencies has brought us a desire on the part of the governmental agencies to assist us in every way possible for resettlement. Work furloughs, indefinite furloughs, student relocation and resettlement are some of the things that I believe we obtained through cooperation with the government. I am sure that if we did not cooperate, the Army would not have acceded to giving us these concessions which are so essential to the settlement of our postwar problems.

Now, at this time, to change our policy of cooperation to that one hindering the purpose of the Army in the defense of the west coast would not be in line with the stand that we have taken to date and also the provisions we have for the future. As Dillon Myer said to us in a closed session, "Do not irritate the Aarmy", I feel that we should not undertake any projects at this time that may hinder the Resettlement Program as announced very recently by tye W.R.A. We must get these people who are so desires out of the relocation centers and establish them in the Middle West as soon as possible, as every day spent in relocation centers shows the deterioration of the splendid background of the evacuees.

Min is a personal friend of mine and, since the trial, I have had several letters from him. I have explained to him the position of the J.A.C.L. and believe he fully understands why we cannot aid him at this time. My outlook on the matters may not be those involving that which we call great principles, however, taking a realistic viewpoint, I personally cannot assist in any program that would jeopardize the future resettlement of the people if the relocation centers.

I hope that this will give you a clear picture of wgat the J.A.C.L. stand is on Min Yasui's case. Our young people have flocked to his cause, however, I believe that they do not see the broader aspects of how it may affect the Resettlement Program being pushed by the W.R.A.

Prior to evacuation, I talked to Min Yasui and, at that time, I was quite worried as to his ability to carry through his decision to test the curfew. He advised me that he had funds enough to carry the case to the Supreme Court if necessary and, knowing Min as I do, I believe he would not have started as action that he could not see to the ultimate conclusion on his own initiative.

Our present plans in regards to these test cases are to in some manner appear as a friend of the court especially in matters referring to the question of citizenship and as things progress, I shall be glad to keep you informed as to not only this matter, but also Min Yasui's case.

Thank you very much for writing fo me and kindly give my regards to my dear friends of the Evacuation Committee.

Sincerely,

Hito Okada

YASUI, Minoru (1917-1988) "Why We Should Support Test Cases." Undated Mimeograph leaflet distributed inside Minidoka Relocation Center, by the Civil Liberties League.

"As a lawyer well founded upon the principles and theories as well as the intricacies of the law, and as an American citizen, I could not tolerate the illegal and unconstitutional efforts to wear away the right of American citizens. I strongly felt, and still believe , that it is the duty as American citizens to resist any infringement upon the basic principles of our nation.

"This is our duty as American citizens, as much as it to fight and die on the battlefronts in defense of our nation. We owe it to the men and boys who are fighting the war to preserve the thing that they are fighting for at home, so they can come back home to 'a land of the three and the home of the brave.'

-------."Good Law v. Good Publicity." April 17, 1942.

"THE BIG AIIIEEEEE!" ed by Chan, Chin, Inada & Wong. New York: Meridian. 1991. (pp 449-460) And in original mimeograph Seattle:Special Collections:University of Washington Library.

Yasui answers "JACL Bulletin 142" paragraph for paragraph.

Masaoka had suggested Yasui( his unnamed "self-styled martyr out to win headlines") was out to usurp control of the JACL. The following suggests that Yasui expected the members of the JACL to support the idea of test cases and force a referendum on JACL policy:

However, it is submitted that whether or not such policy is actually conducive to the 'greatest good for the greatest number' is nevertheless subject to questions, and moreover, although the National can be convinced, thru legitimate means, that not only a substantial majority, but an overwhelming majority of the individual members, demand certain affirmative actions, that the National would be compelled to take such steps. If such effort is construed to be an usurpation of the preogatives of National, then it is submitted that National Headquarters would be failing in its primary function of representing the organization. ..."

Yasui argues that good law is more important than good publicity:

"If the National is willing to sacrifice certain fundamental rights of citizenship establishing a precedent whereby those rights may be deprived of American citizens without protest, then is it not possibly contributing to the destruction of the very fundamental basis of this country?...If it be tyranny to impose unreasonable restrictions upon the people upon the arbitrary and discriminatory basis of race, then it is just as shameful to submit to such unreasonable restrictions.”

MASAOKA, Mike ."Letter To Milton S. Eisenhower, Director, War Relocation Authority." San Francisco: JACL National Headquarters. April 6, 1942. National Archives Record Group 210; and Berkeley: Bancroft Library, call number 67/14, the Japanese Evacuation and Resettlement Study Recoards collection, file T6.10 "JACL Staff Correspondence."

We believe that all projects should be directed to create "Better Americans in a Greater America"

We do not relish the thought of "Little Tokyos" springing up in these resettlement projects, for by so doing we are only perpetuating the very things which we hope to eliminate: those mannerisms and thoughts which mark us apart, aside from our physical characteristics. We hope for a one hundred percent American community.

One thing is certain: there should be no Japanese language schools. Special stress should be laid on enunciation and pronunciation of words so that awkward and "Oriental" sounds will be eliminated.

Masaoka categorizes his recommendations in order of importance and describes an indoctrination and behavior modification program to make the Nisei fit for the draft:

(1) Draftee Status: (2) Public Relations; (3) Education; (4) Religion; (5) Sports and Recreation; (6) Publications and Radios; (7) Health and Medical Facilities; (8) Japanese Professional and Specially-Trained People; (9) Business and Industry; (10) Organization (Self-Government); (14) Private Projects; (15) Induction or Assembly Centers; (16) Semi and Permenent Resettlement Projects.

MASAOKA, Mike ."Japanese American Citizens League, Bulletin 142. RE: Test Cases." San Francisco. April 7,1942. Berkeley: Bancroft Library. Japanese Evacuation Resettlement Study T1.34

The Min Yasui case in Portland, Oregon, is gaining considerable attention. The facts seem to indicate that one Minoru Yasui, a Nisei attorney who worked for the Japanese consulate in Chicago as late as last December 7th, registered with the State Department as a propoganda agent for a foreign government, and a reserve lieutenant in the United States Army, deliberately violated the curfew regulations and surrendered to the police with the declared intentions of legally determing the right of the authorities to impose such restrictions upon American citizens of Japanese extraction. Yasui contends that such actions are discriminatory and constitutional.

At the present time, he is "out" on bail and is said to be circulating a petition among the Portland Chapter members demanding that the National Organization take some definite stand on the question of constitutional rights of the Japanese Americans.

In regard to this particular case, as we as all other test cases of this nature...this office releases the following statement:

The national JACL stands unalterably opposed to test cases to determine the constitutionality of the military regulations at this time. We have reached this decision unanimously after examining all the facts in light of our national policy of: "the greatest good for the greatest number.”

April 6th

.Japanese America, you have three days to raise a hero and put the cartoon Blond Hitler in his place with REVENGE OF THE TRUTH.

FCC

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Pat & George & George & Pat


Read and download Frank Chin's new article here.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pat and George

“[George Takei’s] autobiographical musical is heroic, patriotic, White racist and uplifting, but thumbs its booty at history, fact, and truth. Yet he presumes to instruct an audience of stupid idiots in last century’s news at home.” - Frank Chin

(Photo by Henry DiRocco)

Read Chin's new article from the International Examiner right here.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lies and Decorations

The University of Washington Press has published a new edition of John Okada's NO-NO BOY. Jeffery Chan, Lawson Inada, Shawn Wong and me pooled our money and formed a publishing company, CARP, the Combined Asian Resource Project, to publish NO-NO BOY. We were all self-centered writers mightily impressed with John Okada and his novel.

The University of Washington Press has added a preface authored by Yellow White racists associated with the Japanese American Citizen's League (JACL). My "Afterword" is still attached at the back of the book.

Next month, in New York City, the Pan Asian Repertory Company will open Ken Narasaki's rewrite of Okada's NO-NO BOY with a musical ending for the stage. Car crashes and death are too difficult for the AAstage.

Okada's work convinced four hungry competitive Asian American writers of a writer better than themselves. Okada was better, but his book talked to us. We learned from him, looked into his life in Seattle, and said, "We have to publish this book." And we did.

I like to think that John Okada's NO-NO BOY is special to Yellow readers because four Yellow writers and an artist restored it to print.

My writer's sensibilities are offended by the intrusion of an illiterate editorial authority, over a work the illiterate editorial authority doesn't like.

If you don't like Okada, stay out of his bathroom, bedroom, stay out of his house, get out of his fucking book. Just leave it alone. If you publish it, the people will read. If you publish what you hate on page one, shame on you. Tsk tsk tsk. Sniff. Sniff. I smell the slime of the JACL!

What is the next step beyond Okada's NO-NO BOY? The oppressor JACL and 442nd face to face with their victims the camp people and their offspring. The guilt driven grandchildren of Goering, Himmler, and Hoes and the grandchildren of victims harboring vengeance are seeking each other out and connecting. The Japanese Americans and the White racists don't know the other exists in the same story. "The moving hand writes, and having writ, writes on," as the non-Chinese, Omar Khayaam wrote. Thanks, Omar.

FCC

[Download Frank Chin's new article here]

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

An Interview with Calvin McMillin

Dear Readers,

Eddie here—editor of ChinTalks and Frank Chin’s personal assistant. I hope you got your copy of The Confessions of a Number One Son.  If you notice the front cover of the book, Calvin McMillin’s name appears as the editor. So, who is Calvin? With Frank’s blessing I decided to interview him for the blog. Enjoy!

[My questions in bold]

(Calvin McMillin, PhD)

How are you doing?

I’m doing fine, Eddie. How are you?

I’m great! Thanks. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What was your upbringing like and what’s your educational background?

I was born a long time ago in a country far, far way—Singapore to be precise. I’m the son of a Chinese Singaporean mother and a white, West Texas-raised father. After living in Singapore and Texas for a few years, we moved to Rush Springs, Oklahoma—the Watermelon Capital of the World. For the most part, it was an idyllic, rural childhood. Rush Springs is a lot like Smallville, Kansas [Superman's hometown], and I mean that as a compliment.

Anyway, after graduating high school, I went on to earn bachelors’ degrees in English and secondary education from Oklahoma State University. After teaching junior high for a year, I left for Hawaii and obtained a master’s degree in English from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa with an emphasis in Cultural Studies in Asia/Pacific. After that, I pursued a doctorate in literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz where I specialized in Asian American literature.

Why Asian American Literature?

There are all sorts of reasons why I’m interested in Asian American literature, but making it a category of study was something that evolved over time.

In college, my literary tastes were—and still are—pretty eclectic, running the gamut from Shakespeare to hardboiled detective fiction, from Gothic novels to the works of Haruki Murakami. To tell you the truth, before I went to grad school I actually thought I’d end up being a Mark Twain scholar!

At OSU, I became involved in the Asian American Student Association, and I had read a number of works of Asian American literature by the time I graduated, but it wasn’t until I got to the University of Hawai‘i that it became a serious scholarly pursuit. Not only was I exposed to the local literature of Hawaii, but there were so many used bookstores around, that it was easy—and affordable—to amass a sizable collection of works by Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander authors. I also took an eye-opening class on pre-1960s Asian American literature taught by writer Gary Pak, and things sort of evolved from there. It wasn’t just the subject matter or the authors we covered that appealed to me, but a certain critical perspective that slowly emerged—one that I don’t think I even recognized until recently. Much of my research and pedagogy centers on the uncovering of hidden histories—that is, muted narratives that contradict or unsettle accepted knowledge. In so many respects, Asian American literature affords me that opportunity.

When did you first learn about Frank Chin and his writings?

I first read Frank Chin’s work as an undergraduate at OSU. I suspect that I might have been exposed to a snippet of his critical writing when I read The Woman Warrior or maybe The Joy Luck Club in one of my college classes. Granted, that might be a false memory! In any case, I eventually got my hands on that double volume edition of The Chickencoop Chinaman and The Year of the Dragon.

What were your impressions when you read his plays?

At the time, I don’t think I completely understood them—for a great many reasons, I’m sure. After all, plays are meant to be seen, not read. Back then, you couldn’t just order a DVD from Amazon to see George Takei’s interpretation of Fred Eng in The Year of the Dragon. That kind of access was still a few years away, unfortunately. And watching a play being performed can make all the difference. Pacing, intonation, body language—none of that is available to you when you read a play in isolation.

Now, those conditions aren’t necessarily important; people read plays all the time without ever seeing a performance and still "get it." Even so, you have to remember that Frank’s plays were unlike anything I’d ever read, especially in regard to his inventive use of language. Also, I think the tendency of his protagonists to break with the norms of social etiquette—the sudden insults, the refusal to keep quiet, the bizarre non sequitur here and there—can be bewildering, alienating, perhaps even infuriating to the uninitiated. It’s like walking into a room and finding yourself in the middle of a heated argument. You’ve left the confines of your home behind only to step into a war zone, and suddenly, you’re scrambling to understand the stakes of the argument because maybe you’re going to be forced to pick sides! In a way, Frank’s plays operate in a similar manner. They don’t let the audience off the hook; he doesn’t give them the luxury of remaining neutral, at least not for long. So, I’m sure all of that was contributing to my initial response to his plays.

And yet, the plays still spoke to me. I’m not sure if I could articulate it at the time, but looking back, I can see why I found certain elements appealing—and why they stayed with me. In both of those plays, Frank was trying to articulate a Chinese American identity—not Chinese from China, not a white American identity, but something else. Of course, he’d probably use the word “Chinaman” since he was hell-bent on reclaiming that word from its racist connotations, but whatever you want to call it, his characters were attempting to assert a distinctive cultural identity. In other writings, Frank has argued that the so-called “Asian American identity crisis,” is something imposed from the outside, not from within. It was only as real as you allowed it to be. And as person of mixed race descent, I could identify with that. For some whites, I wasn’t white enough or American enough to fit in. For some Asians, I wasn’t Asian enough or was too American for their liking. So, despite having very little in common with Tam Lum or Fred Eng, I couldn’t help but be moved by their plight. They were deeply-flawed characters who were raging back against ethnic stereotypes and racist expectations. They were attempting to assert not just their identities, but their very right to exist by proclaiming “I AM!” in a primal scream that emanated deep from the heart of Asian America.

(Author Frank Chin. Photo by Nancy Wong)

How did you discover The Confessions of a Number One Son?

Like a lot of great discoveries, it happened quite by accident. I was conducting research for my doctoral dissertation, and part of that research involved Charlie Chan, the fictional Chinese detective created by Earl Derr Biggers. I knew Frank was an outspoken critic of Charlie Chan, so I was looking for an essay that might feature his definitive critique of the character. During that search, I stumbled upon a curious reference to Charlie Chan on Maui, a Frank Chin novel that was never published. It shocked me. I’m supposed to be a scholar of Asian American literature, and I had never even heard of this novel! How could that be possible? That tiny reference piqued my interest, so I decided to do some investigating, and the project took off from there.

Why wasn't the book published in the 1970s?

I think Frank is the only one who knows the full story. Through my discussions with him and the independent research I conducted, it seems like a number of factors contributed to the book’s demise—at least in its original form. There was the initial obstacle involving the lawyers for the Earl Derr Biggers estate. Soon after, the book evolved into a play and parts of it were used for short stories. After that, I think Frank just moved on. That’s the short version anyway. I devote quite a bit of space tracing the book’s evolution in my introduction.

What motivated you to get Confessions published?

Well, the funny thing is that I sought out the original manuscripts simply from a research perspective. I just wanted to see what Frank wrote and whether it would be relevant to my project. I had no intention of pursuing publication. However, once I started reading these manuscripts, I realized I’d found something special. This wasn’t just a lost novel—it was a great novel, one that should have been published. So, despite having a dissertation of my own to complete, I embarked on a restoration project—with no guarantees that Frank would even say yes. I didn’t even know how to get in contact with him!

In the introduction of Confessions, you mentioned you wrote a letter to Frank Chin, telling him you were the right person to edit the book and have it published. Obviously, you convinced him. In so many words, what exactly did you tell him?

I actually didn’t pitch myself to Frank as “the right person to edit the book”—not explicitly anyway. Certainly, I introduced myself, discussed my research, and told him what I thought about the novel. But really, I just encouraged him to seek a publisher and offered to help him in whatever way I could. At the very least, I was hoping he would agree to an interview.

By the time I contacted Frank, I had already created a master copy of the novel from multiple existing drafts. That took a year, maybe two years of work. I did this all in secret. I didn’t ask Frank if I could do it; I just did it—knowing full well that nothing might come from it. I hoped he might be impressed that I took the initiative, but even if he didn’t want the novel to be published, at least he’d have a clean, full-length copy on Microsoft Word to do with as he pleased.

The letter I sent to Frank became the basis for my introduction to the novel, particularly the section in which I talk about the restoration process. When I learned of the existence of Frank’s unpublished novel, I was really excited. I suggested to him that perhaps it was a lot like how he felt when he learned about John Okada, Louis Chu, and Toshio Mori. Maybe he responded to that, I don’t know. Something I said must have convinced him to give me—a total stranger—a shot. And I’ll always be grateful for that.

The original manuscripts of Confessions came out to over 660 pages. You edited it down to a little over 260 pages. Can you describe the editing process of the book? How did you work with Frank on it?

At one point, during a phone conversation with Frank, I tried to feel him out on how we would work together during the editing process. To my surprise, he handed over full editorial control. It was an amazing moment. I couldn’t believe it. It was truly beyond my wildest dreams. Of course, I wanted to be the editor, but that was a wish I dared not speak aloud, for fear that it would never come true. And then it did. That was a supremely generous move on Frank’s part, and again, I can’t thank him enough for giving me that opportunity.

The maximum page count was a restriction set by the publisher, and while you might think that would be detrimental to the editing process, it was actually quite liberating. Even before I became aware of this edict, I was concerned about publishing a “new novel” by Frank Chin that contained material that was published elsewhere, so the first thing I did was cut out anything that had already appeared in The Chickencoop Chinaman, The Chinaman Pacific and Frisco R.R. Co, and Gunga Din Highway. It was pretty easy to remove some of these elements because a handful of Frank’s short stories are actually chapters from this novel. In other cases, however, there were similarities deeply embedded into stray passages throughout the book, and that required both an attentive eye and some creative editing. All sorts of decisions had to be made in regard to structure and chapter breaks.

As I discuss in my introduction, I approached the project like a film editor. I treated my job as if I’d been handed a rough cut of a movie, and the studio was asking me to edit it down to a manageable length for release. In my case, the director had moved on to the next project, so it was up to me to complete the project while staying true to his vision the best I could.

What’s your opinion of Charlie Chan? This fictional character is obviously a theme in Confessions. And it's astonishing how influential Charlie Chan is regarding Chinese stereotypes. We have Yunte Huang's controversial book on him; and there are Hollywood rumors of a movie developing on Chan. But what do you make of him?

Charlie Chan is a racist icon. Many fans of the character will tell you differently. Some feel very protective of him because they enjoyed those movies as children. Some will even accuse critics of the character of not knowing what they’re talking about—of not doing the proper research. But I can assure you that I have seen every Charlie Chan movie ever made that is still in existence, even a Spanish-language adaptation. I have read every Charlie Chan novel Earl Derr Biggers ever wrote and every subsequent spin-off novel and short story that’s come out. I’ve seen every episode of the Charlie Chan TV series, and every episode of the cartoon. I’ve read the comic strips and the comic books. Charlie Chan is a racist icon.

I think what confuses some people is that Charlie Chan is depicted as a hero. He’s a good guy, they say. And that’s one-hundred-percent true. He isn’t a villain. From the fan’s perspective, since Charlie Chan is portrayed as a positive figure then he can’t possibly be racist. I think that interpretation is actually reflective of a larger problem we have in our country when it comes to racism. According to this line of thinking, racism is equated with ill intent. For something to be considered racist, you have to mean someone harm. Racism, from this perspective, has to be an expression of outright hate, even violence to qualify as racism. And yet even when hatred is obvious and violence occurs, we only have to turn on the news or scroll through social media to see that some people are still not willing to concede that racism is a contributing factor. But Frank Chin and Jeffery Paul Chan have already addressed and debunked that mindset back in the 1970s by arguing that there are such things as racist hate and racist love. Charlie Chan is an example of racist love. I won’t rehash the argument here, but, in many ways, you can view characters like Charlie Chan as precursors to the model minority myth—although in this case, the minority has been, quite conspicuously, played by white men.

Although the first three Charlie Chans were of Asian descent, ever since the first Warner Oland film for Fox, Charlie Chan has been exclusively played by white men—even as late as 1981. Former Number One Son Keye Luke—who loved the films, was a faithful defender of Charlie Chan, and actually wanted to play Charlie Chan on the big screen—only got to provide the voice for the character in the cartoon! Now, I know that Russell Wong and later Lucy Liu were slated for separate, never produced Charlie Chan films, and I’ve even seen people suggest that Charlie Chan should be rebooted with an Asian American actor in the lead. I totally understand that sentiment, and perhaps even subscribed to it once, but if you really think about it, one of the reasons why they kept casting a white man in the role is because Charlie Chan only “works” as racial impersonation. Yellowface is the appeal of the character. That’s the novelty. That’s the joke. Even Roland Winters, one of the actors who portrayed the character, admitted as much in an interview with Frank Chin. As Chin himself once said, “Charlie Chan will always be a symbol of white racism, no matter who plays him. If you put a black man in a hood, does that make the Ku Klux Klan a civil rights organization?”

Sure, Frank has a flair for the dramatic, but the larger point still stands. Rebooting Charlie Chan isn’t the same as putting a new twist on James Bond or Sherlock Holmes. Racial impersonation is at the very core of the character. If you want an Asian American detective on the big screen, I say create a brand new one, divorced from all that baggage.

Now, having said all that, let me clarify that if you enjoy the Charlie Chan series, that’s fine with me. A lot of the films are pretty terrible, but some are fairly amusing, and a select few are actually good. They have their charms. It really depends on the director. These weren’t prestige pictures or big budget blockbusters; they were B-movies churned out one right after the other. All these years later, what I find most interesting about these films are the performances of actors like Keye Luke, Victor Sen Yung, and Benson Fong, not to mention a number of Asian American actresses who appear throughout the series. So, just because I say Charlie Chan is a racist icon that doesn’t mean I’m saying that these movies should be banned or that you’re a bad person for liking them. All I’m saying is that if people bring up the racism inherent in the films, there’s no reason for Charlie Chan fans to get defensive.

I mean, look at the James Bond series. I have loved those movies for as long as I can remember, but there’s no denying that a lot of the films, especially the early ones, are horribly racist, sexist, and imperialist. The books, I’m afraid, are far worse. Still, you can enjoy something and be critical of it at the same time.


In my opinion, the introduction alone is worth the price of the book. If anybody is unfamiliar with who Frank Chin is they ought to read the intro to Confessions. There’s so much information you found on him. Of all the things you discovered about Frank, what was the most interesting in your opinion?

Thank you for saying that. I’m glad you liked it. I put a lot of work into that introduction, so it’s gratifying to hear that people are responding to it. As far as the most interesting thing I learned about Frank, well, that’s difficult to say. I learned a lot of interesting things—many of them I’m saving for a later project! Indeed, Frank has led an interesting life, and I hope readers get a sense of that when they read my introduction.

The unfortunate thing is that some people only know Frank by reputation or not at all. I’ve encountered Asian American scholars who have never read his work or have only read excerpts, albeit quoted in someone else’s critique. And that’s completely understandable. There are gaps in anyone’s knowledge, including my own. I’m not faulting them for that. But this apparent lack of familiarity with his work is one of the primary reasons I decided to write an extensive introduction—or reintroduction, if you will—as I firmly believe this novel can provide readers with a new vantage point from which to judge his work. The Confessions of a Number One Son is not a polemic. It’s a work of art.

I think it’s a shame this book wasn’t published earlier. What do you think would have happened had this book been published in the 70s?

Honestly, I have no idea. But just imagine an Asian American novel with all the resources of a New York publishing house behind it: a publisher that would be able to garner media coverage, book reviews in major print publications, and placement in major bookstores all across the country. Also, consider the cultural moment: Bruce Lee is dead, filmmakers are actively trying to resurrect Charlie Chan on the big screen, and moviegoers are flocking to theaters to see the films of the American New Wave, that whole post-Easy Rider movement full of rebellious characters who—while predominantly white—are not unlike Tam Lum in terms of outlook and personality. Now, if you factor into this equation a very outspoken Asian American author, especially one who would have at least one groundbreaking New York play to his name at that point, then I think one can at least imagine an alternate universe in which the novel makes a big splash. It could have been, at the very least, controversial.

Of course, it’s just as possible that none of that would have happened. Readers might have rejected Frank’s work. For all I know, the novel could have been a dud. But to paraphrase Marlon Brando, it coulda been a contender.

Of all the books you read of Frank’s where would you rank Confessions?

Number one, of course. Maybe I’m biased because of my involvement, but I honestly think it’s his strongest work.

Finally, finish this sentence: “In the movie about me, ________”

“In the movie about me, I live happily ever after.”


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