In Terkel's "Frank Chin," the main character speaks directly to the reader. Although primarily narrative in structure, the essay contains a number of descriptive elements, also. These descriptive sections, written with humor and wit, give a glimpse of Chin's adjustment to an environment composed of an unusual mix of different ethnic group members. The essay is very informal in style. An American of Chinese descent, Chin describes what his life was like growing up in Oakland, California in a racially mixed neighborhood. The first five paragraphs of the essay establish Chin's unique experience in this ethnic montage and describe the environment in which he lives.
He grapples with each group's ethnocentrism. He points out that he was bothered when blacks and whites asked him why he was talking about Chinese stuff. Chin observed that nobody spoke English like anybody else. As a result of his experiences, Chin writes, "I've come to believe that monotheism encourages racism, whoever practices it. There is only one God and everyone else is an infidel, a pagan, or a goy" (116).
The author develops his essay along a time sequence of events relevant to the civil rights movement and their effect on the main character. Chin was a Chinese living with blacks in Oakland. By sharing the black culture, he gained a unique perspective on the black experience and an appreciation for rhythm-and-blues and jazz.
Growing up alone and without parents, Chin did not absorb the ideas that parents had proprietary rights over their children and that Chinese were inferior: "The one thing that saved me from being raised in the stereotype was my isolation during World War II, being raised by these white folks" (116). Chin realized during the civil rights movement that the Chinese had no presence or image in American culture as people, although they were more favored than blacks. The description of his efforts to appropriate blackness by imi...