What I learn from Donald Duk by Frank Chin

Donald-Duk-CMYK

I must say that Donald Duk by Frank Chin was sort of tedious to read, but as I reflected on the moral lesson of the novel I realized that it left a profound impression on me.

From the start, the protagonist, Donald Duk, had a deep-rooted hatred for himself and his family’s heritage. He had no pride in being Chinese. So as a reader, I wanted to know why he felt such hatred.  I guess if my name was Minnie Mouse, I’ll want to hide inside a hole in a wall, but there was something much deeper than his detestation for his name. Well, Donald Duk is not Chinese name but an American, nonetheless he thought his parents were dumb for naming him after an American cartoon character.  But as I kept reading, I saw that he not only despised his parents for naming him Donald Duk, he didn’t like that they were Chinese and proud of it. Donald Duk wanted to be an American like Fred Astaire. He believed if he could dance like Fred Astaire than he will be accepted by Americans and be better than Chinese people.

But why did he feel that being Chinese was not enough? The problem was shown in the first chapter of the novel, where it was mentioned that his history teacher wanted to read a book about Chinese people for the Chinese New Year.  The teacher said that, “The Chinese in America were made passive and nonassertive by centuries of Confucian thought and Zen mysticism.”  (Chin, 2) He said that Americans were aggressive and competitive, and the Chinese were vulnerable, so Donald felt inferior to his classmates, who were White Americans. The teacher was either intentionally or unintentionally, reinforcing American White supremacy over any other race, making Donald Duk a victim of a systematic racial discrimination in education. In the book there wasn’t a sense of celebration or acceptance of diversity, but just an acknowledgement of another culture, in comparison to the dominant American one.

Eventually Donald Duk was awakened to the fact the school history books were biased because the Chinese Americans were just as aggressive and competitive as White Americans. Donald discovered that the Chinese people helped build the transcontinental railroad, which the school textbooks did not acknowledge. With that realization, Donald began to believe that his people were strong and mighty, and there was nothing to be ashamed of.

I saw a clear character development in Donald Duk, because he learned that it was okay to be himself and that he should have pride for his heritage as a Chinese boy. This is something that I learn from reading Donald Duk, that we all should be prideful for being who we are, no one race is greater than the other, and that we should celebrate the diversity of all who are different.  JA

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