Frank Chin
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Frank Chin
Frank Chin
Chin in 1975
Chin in 1975
Born (1940-02-25) February 25, 1940 (age 80)
Berkeley, California, U.S.
  • Playwright
  • novelist
  • writer
Alma mater
University of California, Berkeley
Notable worksThe Year of the Dragon (1974)
Aiiieeeee! (1974)
Donald Duk (1991)
Notable awardsAmerican Book Award
(1982, 1989, 2000)[1]1992 Lannan Literary Award for Fiction
SpouseKathy 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

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 Theater Workshop, which later 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. Much of his works revolve around criticism of the racism in the United States. 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 has appeared in Jeff Adachi's The Slanted Screen, a 2006 documentary film about stereotypical depictions of Asian males in American cinema. 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, 1975.

Chin was married for five years to Kathy Chang. Kathleen Chang (October 10, 1950 - October 22, 1996), was known by her performance name Kathy Change. She was a Sino-American political activist, writer, and performance artist.



  • The Chickencoop Chinaman (1971) the first play by an Asian American to be produced as a mainstream New York theater production.
  • The Year of the Dragon (1974) ISBN 0-295-95833-2
  • Gee Pop! (1976) An unpublished play about Charlie Chan which was produced by East West Players.[8] Elements of this play would appear in some of Chin's later work.


Works in anthologies


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.

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 theaters. 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


  1. ^ a b American Booksellers Association (2013). "The American Book Awards / Before Columbus Foundation [1980-2013]". BookWeb. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Lee, Jonathan H. X. (2015). Chinese Americans: The History and Culture of a People. ABC-CLIO. p. 334. ISBN 978-1610695497.
  3. ^ Reflections of a Bruised Tiger and an Ironic Cat, in Studs Terkel, Race: How Blacks & Whites Think & Feel about the American Obsession (1992) ISBN 1-56584-000-3
  4. ^ Charlie Chan, WBUR,
  5. ^ Frank Chin Debates Yunte Huang, Big Wo Wo,
  6. ^ Stephen Davis, Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend 77 (2005) ISBN 978-1-59240-099-7
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Production History & Archive".
  9. ^ "Revisiting "Farewell to Manzanar" and the revolt against the JACL". 2013-07-04.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Jones, Mother (May 1976). "Mother Jones Magazine".
  12. ^ "Legacy Leaders of Color Video Project".


External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes