Donald Duk Essay

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Frank Chin's Donald Duk is a spirited novel of education whose comic protagonist makes a welcome addition to the roster of American literary boy heroes. The novel entertains readers with its coming-of-age account of twelve-year-old Donald carping and spluttering his way to new understanding--about himself, about his community, about his place in American society. Yet beyond any entertainment value, the author clearly intends his novel to have a serious didactic purpose. Stories, according to Chin, are essential to an education that would "create informed, morally conscious citizens"; he claims that Chinese legends and stories are a "valuable tool" for reminding Chinese-Americans of their heritage and a "necessity" for bringing understanding to white Americans about the history and culture of others.(1) The novel exemplifies his claim; Donald Duk's comic strip bildungsroman becomes a novel of education for readers as well--especially for white readers. The lessons that drive the novel are explicit and unambiguous. Donald Duk presents the heroic dimensions of Chinese-American history even as it exposes the invidious popular stereotypes, the prejudices, and the injustices that characterize that history. The unrelenting indictment of the status of Chinese-Americans and their treatment in American society, in the past and now, becomes an argument for social correction--a call for change dictated by respect for all and fair play as promised by American democracy. The cultural issues explored by Donald Duk are not new to Frank Chin's work--Chin's role as a spokesman for Chinese America is well established. The legal and social forces that have victimized Chinese-Americans (e.g. racist U.S. exclusion laws, the nineteenth century exploitation of Chinese laborers, the distortion of classic Chinese philosophy and literature, the erasure of Chinese-American history, the
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