Chinese-American shares experiences

Allison Halco and Allison Halco

Wearing black Levi’s, a light blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled back and a shiny crimson and gold tie, Frank Chin looked casual as he addressed students and faculty yesterday. Once he began talking about World War II and the internment of Japanese Americans during that time however, his demeanor changed to fierce intensity.

Even though Chin himself is a Chinese-American, he shared with University audiences his passion for teaching about Japanese-Americans and how their civil rights were limited during WWII.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese-Americans were kept in work camps in the U.S. The purpose of these camps was to try to capture international spies before they could leave the country. According to Chin, only 10,000 German-Americans and 10,000 Italian-Americans were kept in these camps, while 120,313 Japanese-Americans were held there.

“They captured 120,313 Japanese Americans, but they didn’t catch one spy,” Chin said.

Throughout his speech, Chin read — in a voice that ranged from booming to singing — excerpts of books and poems dealing with the treatment of Japanese-Americans during this WWII. The works he read were primarily written by Japanese authors who were afraid to speak up any sooner about the situation Japanese-Americans were placed in during WWII, Chin said. During that time, Japanese resistance organizations existed — groups that many people today are still unaware of.

“It’s incumbent upon us as Asian-Americans to understand these 80-year-old men who have been waiting for 60 years to be thanked for saving their people’s civil rights,” Chin said.

Chin’s speech was well-received by his audience.

“He was vivid and entertaining,” Aaron Lane, sophomore, said. “He seemed very knowledgeable.” Lane attended Chin’s presentation with his Introduction to Asian-American Studies class.

Chin is a nationally recognized novelist and short story writer. His works include “Donald Duck: A Novel,” “Gunga Din Highway” and “Born in the USA: A Story of Japanese America, 1889-1947.”

“Frank Chin has a large profile in Asian-American literature and in American literature,” said Lawrence Coates, assistant professor of english. Coates was the individual behind arranging Chin’s visit to the University.

Chin was brought to campus as part of the College of Arts and Sciences Reading Series. His visit was also sponsored by the Creative Writing Program, American Culture Studies, OEDIS, Ethnic Studies and the Office of the Provost.

The co-sponsorship was beneficial to students and faculty, Coates said.

“We got people to hear our writer who wouldn’t normally come,” he said. “I think it was a really good thing all around.”