Time has not been kind to Charlie Chan. Author Earl Derr Biggers penned six novels featuring Honolulu's Chinese-born super-sleuth, but the character was cemented in the public consciousness by the 44 films made between the years 1931 and 1949. As was the norm in those days, a Caucasian portrayed Charlie Chan, and today the character's portrayal is often pegged as an offensive stereotype. In his new book Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History
, Yunte Huang
redeems Chan through an exhaustive examination of the novels and films in the context of their times. Much like Speedy Gonzales, a hero throughout Mexico but suppressed in today's politically correct climate, the Charlie Chan films were hugely popular in China and countered the pervasive Chinese stereotype of the time — the "yellow peril" of Fu Manchu. Huang also digs deeply into a little-known fact: Charlie Chan was based on a real person, a bullwhip-carrying cop feared by the Honolulu underworld and respected by his colleagues. Huang discusses and reads from his book tonight at 7 p.m. at Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-6731 or www.left-bank.com
). Admission is free, and copies of Huang's book will be available for purchase.
Wed., Dec. 8, 2010