By Michael E. Ross
Updated December 09, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST
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Gunga Din Highway

type
  • Book
genre

The literary legerdemain of Frank Chin has few parallels in American fiction. In his wild first novel, Donald Duk (1991), a boy’s dreams became a means of learning the subtleties of his Chinese heritage. Chin’s new novel, Gunga Din Highway adroitly conflates American pop-cultural mythology and Asian-American themes in another spirited examination of heritage and self-identity. Longman Kwan, ”The Chinaman Who Dies” in numerous 1940s movies, hopes to be the first Chinese actor to play Charlie Chan. His outspoken son, Ulysses, can’t abide the retro-fitting of a symbol of the Asian-American past to the new generation. What results is a sprawling multigenerational story of a father and son, and the ties that bind, and chafe, across the years. The idea of a movie character as a source of pride and shame has broad resonance (imagine black actors faced with the cultural resurrection of Stepin Fetchit). But Chin’s new work isn’t just skewering the conventions of cinematic Americana. Father, son, and a parade of other characters wrestle with the joys and agonies of self-invention in this funny, touching book. B

Gunga Din Highway

type
  • Book
genre
author
  • Frank Chin

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