How do you accept who you are and where you came from when you hate who you are and where you came from? Donald Duk, not the pant-less Disney duck, is an eleven year old Chinese-American boy who is trying to distance himself as much as he can from the Chinese part of who he is. He hates his name, which is understandable, if I were named Woody Woodpecker, I’d be a bit peeved too. But Donald wasn’t named after Walt’s fowl creation, he was named after his father’s mentor. His name is not meant to mock, it is meant to honor, and Donald has a hard time understanding this.
Donald also wants nothing to do with the Chinese New Year that is happening all around San Francisco’s Chinatown, where he lives. He hates Chinatown and he wants nothing to do with the significance that each day the Chinese New Year carries. He wants nothing to do with his father’s Chinese restaurant, other than asking his father to make dishes from cuisine’s that aren’t Chinese. He is mystified when his white friend, Arnold Azalea, acting as the reader’s surrogate who might be unfamiliar with Chinese customs, wants to learn more about Chinese culture. What is in the red envelopes of lay see and is “ho see fot choy” a dish or a wish of good luck. Why would someone want to know more about what it means to be Chinese? Donald’s dream is to be anything but Chinese, which is why it is interesting what he actually finds in his dreams.
In Donald’s dreams he meets some of the members of the 108 heroes of The Water Margin, think Robin Hood and his Merry Men only Chinese. In Donald’s dreams he is transported back in time to when Chinese men were helping build the transcontinental railroad. Donald cannot change this past or right any wrongs that happened to his countrymen. He can only be an observer, but this presents a problem after he wakes up. He wants to be a part of something, the American culture, but he is not sure if they will accept him for who he is and where he is from. Who wins when you are pushing towards one culture, and another culture is pulling you in the opposite direction? Donald Duk by Frank Chin asks, can there be a balance?