Chin, Justin 1969-
CHIN, Justin 1969-
PERSONAL: Born 1969, in Malaysia.
CAREER: Poet, writer, and performance artist. Exhibitions: His works have been presented in forums that include PS 122 and Dixon Place, New York, NY; Josie's Cabaret & Juice Joint, the LAB, Cener for the Arts, Artist Television Access, Luna Sea & Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA; East/West Players, Los Angeles, CA; the Cleveland Performance Art Festival; Hampshire College; and Loyola University.
AWARDS, HONORS: Guardian Outstanding Local Discoveries award, San Francisco Bay Guardian; fellowships and grants from California Arts Council, Djerassi Artist Residency, PEN American Center, and PEN Center USA West.
Bite Hard, Manic D Press (San Francisco, CA), 1997.
Mongrel: Essays, Diatribe, and Pranks, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Harmless Medicine (poetry), Manic D Press (San Francisco, CA), 2001.
Burden of Ashes, Alyson Publications (Los Angeles, CA), 2002.
Poetry, prose, and journalism has been published in Men on Men, Eros in Boystown, Premonitions, James White Review, Progressive, American Poetry, and Next Generation, among others.
SIDELIGHTS: Justin Chin is a gay Asian poet, writer, and performance artist whose early books of poetry and prose have become cult classics of a sort. His witty and humorous pop-culture-influenced prose poems were well received by audiences during his participation on the San Francisco poetry slam team in 1995 and 1996. Born in Malaysia of a Chinese family and raised in Singapore, Chin stumbled into poetry by accident: his parents wanted him to be a doctor, but growing up in a British education system where English literature was mandatory he fell in love with the subject. Chin's family, hoping to dampen this unacceptable passion, put him in the care of a strict aunt. Rather than "cure" him, the experience of living with his aunt provided Chin with fertile soil for his poetic passion.
In Burden of Ashes Chin weaves a mosaic of his life. He depicts how his aunt caned him into learning his multiplication tables and the violin, and forced him to eat carrots until he was sick. He recalls becoming aware of his sexual orientation at a young age: of having sex with men in restrooms at age thirteen and picking up European diplomats at the mall at age fourteen. Joanna Smith Rakoff, reviewing the book for SF Gate, commented: "The brief episodes that make up Burden of Ashes … never develop into full-fledged stories. None of the characters emerge as three-dimensional figures … and none of the action leads to anything but the author's whiny complaints about things being 'horrid.'" Meanwhile, a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews noted that the "flurry of episodes from Chin's life, though clearly intended to show off his crackling writing style, … are also highly illustrative of his human dilemmas: sorely felt and often enough laugh-aloud funny." Nancy Ives' review in Library Journal referred to Chin's prose as "strong yet sensitive … going far beyond memoir, blending fiction and memory into essays on such diverse topics as harsh childhood discipline, a family visit to China, problems with lovers, and a man being pushed off a subway platform."
Kitty Chen Dean, reviewing Mongrel: Essays, Diatribes, and Pranks for Library Journal, called Chin a "Singapore-born, California-based, hip, shaved, tattooed, foul-mouthed gay male" who, while describing love affairs, poetry slams, and being a gay Asian, also writes of "prostitution in Bangkok, malls in Singapore, the Western interest in Buddhism, the Mr. Asian contest, and other topics." Timothy Liu, who reviewed the book for Lambda Book Report, commented: "The interesting identities of race and sexual orientation manifest themselves throughout Mongrel in complex ways. … I'm glad Chin chose to do this book in prose. Why? Because he knows that essays and performance poems are rooted in different traditions and audiences, just as he knows that 'there will always be work that is deemed not queer enough for the queers, not Asian enough for the Asians, not Asian enough for the queers, too Asian for queers, too queer for Asians, too much, too little, too bad.'"
In an online interview with Gerry Gomez Pearlberg for Frigate, Chin answered questions about his writing: "I think the greatest gift that poetry and literature and art make for me, is to work my mind out to think and to make the connection between things—between issues and ideas. … Everything [in my work] is very thought out, edited, obsessed over, nit-picked. All the subconscious is subjected to the scrutiny of examination." "I take hope that—that perhaps one day," Chin added, "people can look at my own work beyond the shock or the comic or the grit to see it as a whole."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2002, review of Burden of Ashes, p. 155.
Lambda Book Report, May, 1999, Timothy Liu, review of Mongrel: Essays, Diatribes, and Pranks, p. 138.
Library Journal, December, 1998, Kitty Chen Dean, review of Mongrel, p. 138; March 15, 2002, Nancy R. Ives, review of Burden of Ashes, p. 80.
Publishers Weekly, December 21, 1998, review of Mongrel, p. 38.
Alyson Publications Web site,http://www.alyson.com/ (May 31, 2002).
Frigatezine,http://www.frigatezine.com/ (July 22, 2002), Gerry Comez Pearlberg, "InterText: A Conversation with Justin Chin."
Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophies, and History,http://ww.ralphmag.org/ (September 16, 2002), Lolita Lark, review of Burden of Ashes.
SF Gate,http://www.sfgate.com/ (May 31, 2002), Joanna Smith Rakoff, review of Burden of Ashes.*