About six weeks ago, Frank Chin sent me the email which you recently published online. When I received it, I didn't know what he was talking about. Our most recent correspondence concerned an error in our edition of Frank's novel, Donald Duk, that a high school teacher had brought to our attention. I queried Frank, and when he confirmed that it was an error that had somehow slipped past us both during the proofreading process, I promised that we would fix the error the next time the book needed to be reprinted.
Then came the email that seemed to assume that our most recent exchange of emails had been about a manuscript I had sent back to him several years ago, and about his attacks on Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, and other writers.
Four years ago we initiated a leadership transition at Coffee House Press and a year later we implemented that plan. Chris Fischbachbecame our publisher, and my title changed to “senior editor.” I felt that before the transition was complete, I had to make a decision about a manuscript that Frank had sent us.
In the back-and-forth discussions prior to that point, I had told Frank that he was undertaking two very different tasks in his manuscript. He wanted to write a scholarly book examining the variations between the variant versions of certain key stories in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures—an intriguing project with a lot of promise. But he also wanted to create a book that Asian American parents could use as bedtime stories for their children. In addition, the introductions he had written to the stories frequently included attacks on his perceived "literary enemies."
I told Frank that I would be willing to work with him to turn the book into a scholarly tome, or a bedtime stories book, but that I did not believe the book could succeed as a combination of those two very different literary disciplines.
I also told Frank, with regard to Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, and David Henry Hwang, that he had made the points he wanted to make in his previous books, and in his many workshops and speeches in colleges and universities around the country. It seemed to me that his issues with these writers had become old news, and worked against the better interest of his manuscript.
He responded by telling me he wanted his book to accomplish both of his goals, and to include his attacks on other writers. I wrote back to say that in that case, I had to reluctantly pass on the book. We have not discussed the issue of his manuscript or his feelings about Kingston, Tan, or Hwang since that time, so I don’t understand what prompted his recent email.
I believe Frank Chin has made an important contribution to American literature as a playwright and fiction writer, and I know he has inspired at least two generations of Asian American writers. I wish he would take pleasure and pride in his accomplishments, rather than burning with an all-consuming anger. Personally, I take pride in having published three of his books, and I wish Frank only the best.