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Guide to the Frank Chin Papers Wyles, MSS 103
Wyles, MSS 103  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biographical/Historical note
  • Conditions Governing Access note
  • Conditions Governing Use note
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition note
  • Processing Information note
  • Scope and Contents note
  • Separated Materials note

  • Title: Frank Chin Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: Wyles, MSS 103
    Contributing Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara, Davidson Library, Department of Special Collections, California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 68.0 linear feet 121 document boxes; including 1 oversize container
    Date (inclusive): 1940-2011
    Location note: Del Sur

    Biographical/Historical note

    Frank Chin is a UCSB graduate (1965) and is widely recognized as the most influential Asian American dramatist and writer (novels, short stories, essays) in the country. He is one of a handful of top literary figures in Asian American literary and cultural communities, and he is distinguished as being the first Asian American playwright produced in New York City. He founded the Asian American Theater Workshop in San Francisco which later evolved into the Asian American Theater Company (AATC). In discussing the value of the papers, Chin remarked, "I hope that my collection of research, letters and experimental manuscripts will stimulate a more traditional study of Asian American literature, beginning with an introduction to the Asian children's stories shared by China, Korea, and Japan since pre-historic times, and the "vernacular novels" developed to spread Chinese heroic tradition of the Ming, as a conscious expression of the myth of civilization throughout Asia.” “By making my papers available to the public, I hope that my efforts to treat knowledge of Asia and America as equally important will be seen and used.”
    Born February 25, 1940, Frank Chin describes himself as a fifth generation Chinaman. His great-grandfather helped build the Southern Pacific Railroad and his grandmother was a steward. He worked as a brakeman for the line before he began writing. Frank Chin’s work broke new ground in the exploration of Chinese and Chinese American mythology, iconography and cultural misconception. At a time when most writers and scholars were merely examining the way that Chinese Americans experienced stereotypes, Frank Chin was confronting and destroying the perceived foundations from which those stereotypes evolved. In 1975 Frank Chin described his efforts as an activist for Chinese-American identity to Stanley Eichelbaum for the San Francisco Examiner, to fight what he described as “anti-yellow, love-em to death and extinction racism”, which he believed was still widely practiced here in the United States. “Not Chink-hating racism but a more subtle form that deprives us of identity and locks up our seven generations of history and culture in America.”
    Growing up in Oakland California, Chin attended UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara and joined the Program in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. He is both prolific and varied in his output, having produced documentaries, written novels, short stories, comic books, essays, plays and Hollywood scripts, as well as teaching classes in Asian American literature. Chin co-edited one of the marquee Asian American Anthologies entitled Aiiieeeee!, published in 1974, and a second volume entitled, The Big Aiiieeeee!, published in 1991. Among Frank Chin’s many contributions to Asian American literature and Asian American literature studies, is his tireless effort to fight against the emasculation of the Asian and Asian American male identity. In a letter to Margaret Chew for her term paper for Holy Family Academy, Chin clearly defines his views on his own writing and his views on cultural identity.
    “My ideas on Asian America aren’t radical. What makes my ideas seem radical is that they are no longer popular. Whites wiped out the Chinese truth about China. The radical new idea is the current popular one about Chinese culture being passive, humble, docile, non assertive. That’s all bullshit. In schematic, here’s the old, the traditional, the classical vision of Chinese America.”
    Chin believed, and continues to believe, that the cultural identities of the “Confucian” Chinese man or the serene and peaceful “oriental mind” are externally produced stereotypes, first introduced by white observers as a way to further dehumanize that which they could not understand. Because of his efforts, he has been criticized by many scholars as being misogynistic or homophobic, claims which Chin has boldly and outspokenly confronted in many of his writings, earning him notoriety and grudging respect. In Gunga Din Highway (1994), Chin articulates a visionary rejection of centuries of Chinese emasculation through stereotype, by presenting protagonists who identify with the warrior spirit of legendary Chinese figures such as Kwan Kung. It is no small sign of his prescience that his ideas are becoming more widely accepted in the modern American popular culture.

    Conditions Governing Access note

    none

    Conditions Governing Use note

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition note

    Acquired from Frank Chin, 2003 and 2009, with periodic updates

    Processing Information note

    Collection processed by Michelle Wilder with Alexander Hauschild June 2007; and Callie Bowdish and Paola Novo, February and March 2009, updates and converison to EAD format by Callie Bowdish and Janet Chen in 2012

    Scope and Contents note

    The Frank Chin Papers contain personal and professional materials of Chins' from 1940-2001. The collection is divided into four series spanning 112 archival boxes. The bulk of the collection consists of Chin’s manuscripts, including essays, articles, novels, scripts (film and theater) and notes. Also included are several correspondence files relating to Chin’s personal life and professional projects as well as extensive correspondence with other notable contemporary writers (including but not limited to Maxine Hong Kingston, James “Jimmie” Omura, Michi Weglyn, Mei Berssenbrugge). The second largest component of the collection are the subject files, which includes numerous folders relating to specific individuals, historical events and subjects. Altogether, the collection provides critical insight into Chin’s creative, personal and professional life as a contemporary Chinaman author and playwright. (It is important to note that Frank Chin refers to himself as a Chinaman, not a Chinese American, though he was born in America of Chinese decent.)
    Series I: Biographical Information, 1940-1998 (Box 1). This series consists of a wide variety of primary resources, including Chin’s baby book, astrological chart, awards and certificates, articles and interviews. The material in this series is arranged chronologically, then alphabetically within years; material with no date (n.d.) is placed at the end of the chronological order.
    Series II: Correspondence, 1950-2000 (Boxes 2-10). This series is divided into sub series as follows: Incoming correspondence by Subject includes family, personal and professional correspondence arranged alphabetically by the name of the subject. These subjects were indicated by Chin or are based on the preponderance of material in each folder. Incoming Correspondence Alpha Series contains correspondence arranged by Chin under alphabetical headings where the preponderance of material is not from one writer. Incoming Correspondence, Chronological covers miscellaneous correspondence collected from specific periods of time by Frank Chin. This sub series is maintained in its original format, (individual folders covering overlapping bulk dates) to reflect that these letters were grouped together by Chin. Outgoing Correspondence includes family, personal and professional correspondence; Dorothea Oppenheimer, author’s representative (incoming & outgoing) contains incoming and outgoing correspondence with Dorothea Oppenheimer, Chin’s agent from 1970-1980.
    Series III: Manuscripts, 1958-1998 (Boxes 10-40). This series is the largest in the collection. Contained herein are essays, short stories, novels, scripts (for film and theater) as well as notes in various forms, including published versions and early and final drafts. There are two important notes about this series: (1) Frank Chin was in the habit of starting correspondence to someone (friend, relative, acquaintance, professional contact, etc.) and then turning the correspondence into a writing project (such as a script or an essay) therefore those folders which indicate correspondence in this series actually contain partial correspondence and partial manuscript work in the same document; (2) due to the extensive breadth of Chin’s writing this series has not been sub divided into published and unpublished work for various reasons (including but not limited to chapter titles changing, printed excerpts of previously unpublished work that has since been published, titles of articles and essays differing where content is the same or visa versa) and has therefore been arranged here in one alphabetical order, arranged chronologically where titles are the same.
    Series IV: Subject Files, (1899-2000) 1941-2001 (Boxes 41-116). This series is divided into six sub series as follows: Combined Asian American Resources Project contains a considerable number of interview transcripts as well as a project summary and a few administrative files such as correspondence with and grants to the National Endowment for the Humanities; Media has been divided into groups based on the type of media or the individual being represented; Omura, James “Jimmie” contains; Weglyn, Michi contains personal and professional correspondence between Chin and Weglyn relating to a particular projects on which either author was working as well as files related to the Day of Remembrance Tribute to Michi Weglyn (see also sub series World War II…, sub group Day of Remembrance); World War II & Japanese Internment in the U.S. has been divided into eight groups based upon available materials (note: the sub group Born in the USA: Japanese America 1889-1947 (formerly Return of the Fair Play Committee) were the original research files for the documentary Return of the Fair Play Committee, a project with which Chin was involved until the project was halted. Subsequently, Chin used the research to write the book Born in the USA); Miscellany contains files whose topics cannot be categorized in the aforementioned groups. All of the sub series and sub groups are arranged alphabetically by title and chronologically within the same dates.

    Separated Materials note

    The following items have been catalogued separately and are available by searching the UCSB library online catalog: Davis, Clyde, Brion, The Great American Novel, New York, Toronto, Farrar & Rinehart, inc, 1938. Mori, Toshio, The Chauvinist and Other Stories, introduction by Hisaye Yamamoto, Los Angeles, Asian American Studies Center, University of California, c1979 Pacific Citizen, Vol. 83 No. 26; Vol. 85 No. 26; Vol. 87 No. 2007, 2015, 2023-2024; Vol. 88, No. 2025-2026, 2028, 2034, 2038, 2040-2042, 2044-2045, 2047-2048; Vol. 89 No. 2065, Vol. 90 No. 2091, 2095-2096, 1976-1980