First name, Donald. Last name starts with a “D”.

fake-donald-duckHow 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.

Donald-Duk-CMYK-348x535In 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?

-MAS 2015

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4 thoughts on “First name, Donald. Last name starts with a “D”.

  1. Dear MAS,
    This was a great blog. I thoroughly enjoyed how you explored Donald Duk’s rebellion towards his culture and identity. Donald is at an already vulnerable stage in life, in search of his identity (as most adolescents experience) and is battling the great disdain that he feels towards what he should be the most proud of; his culture. This brings about a challenging topic that could be taught in a classroom setting–why do many young adolescents frown upon what is different? How can we make our students more tolerant of others’ differences? And how can we create a climate of acceptance and appreciation of identity in our own classrooms and communities in general? I think that this book would serve as a useful model to really explore these ideas with students, as well as to troubleshoot solutions for the problems presented by Donald Duk.
    –VM

  2. MAS, This was an excellent blog posts in relation to how the book is told. I really loved how you gave us (the audience) contradicting statements/questions that really show the predicament that Donald Duk is in. Donald is really suffering from the common immigrant crisis of identity. He’s struggling to be assimilated into being “American” and yet cannot be fully accepted in this culture. While Donald Duk feels this way, what is even more important to note is how he is annoyed when his teacher gives/teaches misinformation on Chinese Americans. He becomes so annoyed that this wrong information is being taught about people of his culture and yet he says he doesn’t care about his culture. If I were teaching this book I would put an extreme emphasis and focus on this part of the book. It teaches the reader about the double consciousness that some people experience due to their race/culture/sex. Donald Duk hates his culture but sort of defends his culture. Contradictions like these shape this story and, most importantly, shows how the adolescence period is a time where those contradictions are seen in extreme manners. This section of the text would serve for an excellent point of discussion (possible in a Socratic seminar format) within our classes or even with our book groups.

    -DML

    • DML, I agree one hundred percent on the teacher scene. I think that’s the scene I would teach into. I would pose the question to my students, after we read a little into the book, if they think that Donald would stand up for his heritage. I’m pretty sure most of them, if not all, would say “no”, but then at the end of the book he does. I’m glad to hear that we think alike when it comes to what is really important about Donald Duk, both the book and the character.

      -MAS 2015

  3. Hey MAS2015, I love the way you began your blog, it hits the core of the story, the biggest theme of the novel, Donald Duk, which is identity crisis. I agree with SD that this is great summary which does not give too much of the plot away. As far as your question of if there can be a balance between multiple cultures, especially if one is pushing you one direction, and the other is pushing you the other way, I think there could be a balance. I believe a person can be very traditional, and yet embrace new traditions. It would be a fusion of cultures. Sort of how Donold Duk’s father learned to cook various dishes from different cultures. Even though he learned how to make those meals, he remained very traditional.

    I also liked the other topic you mentioned which was how Donald couldn’t change his past or right any wrongs that happened to his countrymen because he was only an observer of his dream. However, he was able to still do something in the present time, which was pretty cool to see. I like how Donald Duk was finally able to stand up for his own people. JA

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