Thanks, N and C for sending this: Sleuthing Out Charlie Chan. Click on “Listen To This Show” on the top of the page (or click here), and you’ll be able to hear Frank Chin debate Yunte Huang about Huang’s new book on Charlie Chan. The show is part of NPR.
This interview took place just last Friday. I first learned about Huang’s new book from a NY Times article which also mentioned Frank Chin. I don’t have much of an opinion on Charlie Chan the character since I’ve never seen the show, but I agree that it’s an important part of history and a provocative subject of debate, and for that reason, it’s good that Huang wrote this book.
Fans of Frank Chin will appreciate the man’s brashness and fierceness that continues to this day. Even when Huang seemed to try to pull a Sun Tzu style attack and butter him up with compliments, Chin kept moving forward and stuck to the issues. I checked out some of the comments on the show’s page, and like the Italian American caller from the radio show who was kind enough to enlighten the colored folks of America by comparing the racism he endured in his White American experience with what we face in our Asian American experiences, there are lots of people in the comment section telling Frank Chin to “lighten up.” There are also commenters accusing Frank of “hijacking” the show. I think the comments illustrate how much further we have to go before people really open their minds to allow themselves to understand the Asian American experience.
(I also have to admit that there are also funny comments. The funniest was the one which said: “holy crap is frank going to hurt somebody?”)
I didn’t understand why Huang thinks we need an “antidote” to Bruce Lee. The word “antidote” implies that there is a disease, and that that disease is Bruce Lee, and that Charlie Chan somehow cures that disease. That makes no sense to me, as I’m a HUGE Bruce Lee fan. I think most people like Bruce. Nor did I understand how Huang applies Monkey King thinking to Charlie Chan. I don’t think most Chinese families encourage their kids to be like the Monkey King, who is a fascinating character but who happens to be very childish. As Frank Chin notes in the interview, the Monkey King is not a man.
Otherwise, the interview brings out many interesting points about the books we read, the heroes we have, and the lives we live. I thought the moderator Tom Ashbrook did a fantastic job of allowing both men to hit the important issues. And even though those angry people are writing/calling in to tell Frank Chin to be quiet, they’re better people for having heard about the discomfort that most of us Asian people have with racial stereotypes. They got to hear a great man speak from the heart.