Donald Duk : a novel

by Frank Chin

Paper Book, 1991





Minneapolis : Coffee House Press, 1991.


On the eve of the Chinese New Year in San Francisco's Chinatown, twelve-year-old Donald Duk attempts to deal with his comical name and his feelings for his cultural heritage.

User reviews

LibraryThing member freddlerabbit
I picked this book up as a recommendation from "The Big Aiiieeeee! : an anthology of Chinese American and Japanese American Lterature" as a foundational book on first-generation experience in America. The editors sang the praises of the novel, and I had high expectations.

The book didn't quite meet those expectations - and yet, I was far from disappointed. Written in a diction that mirrors the inner dialogue of its young protagonist, Donald Duk, the book is fast paced and sometimes feels as though it's only skimming the surface - like most teenagers, Donald doesn't offer an indepth portrait of his parents' feelings or his sisters', and through much of the story, he simply looks down on them. This is frustrating, a bit, if you're used to a model of writing that offers rich interiority - but there is still enough complexity and thought in the book, it provides a different experience, rather than an eviscerated one

Throughout the book, Donald grapples not only with his name, which he feels is ridiculous, but also with his attitudes towards having Chinese family and ancestors, and his attitudes towards white teachers and friends. During the course of the novel, he learns more Chinese history and mythology, and his understanding of Chinese history deepens. He begins to develop an appreciation for the parts of him that are connected to China. And yet, like a teenager, that appreciation doesn't turn his entire life around. He still gets embarassed or angry at his family, his school, and his friends, and still fantasizes about escape through perfect assimilation and performance. This could make the book a frustrating read. But for me, it made it a very real read, and an engaging one.
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LibraryThing member kchung_kaching
For a guy who was at the spearhead of the short-lived Asian American movement, his writing is surprisingly average.
LibraryThing member joeydag
East Asian/American youth in SF Chinatown? I read this quite a while ago.


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