Bridge is most often discussed by literary critics today because of the famous (or infamous) back-and-forth between editor Frank Ching and the playwright and editor Frank Chin that took place in a series of letters to the editor in 1972-1973. (There are some excerpts some highlights from those letters in Bridge 2.2 and Bridge 2.3. The second issue also contains responses from two authors criticized by Frank Chin, Betty Lee Sung and Diana Chang).
While the staff of Gidra largely consisted of Japanese Americans, the staff of Bridge was largely of Chinese origin -- with a mix of Chinese immigrants who had come to the U.S. as students ("overseas Chinese"), and Chinese American writers. The focus initially was on Chinese Americans, though even as soon as the second issue (Bridge 1.2), there is an attempt to engage a broader Asian American identity concept. In that issue, Frank Ching's editorial (borrowing from Daniel Okimoto's book American in Disguise), and Rockwell ("Rocky") Chin's survery of Asian American periodicals both gesture to a broader Asian American identity.
Other important voices who wrote for Bridge include Margaret Loke, Rockwell Chin (who sometimes signed his name as "Rocky Chin"), and Robin Lu. Unlike several other Asian American little magazines, Bridge never had a specific college campus connection -- it was a lower Manhattan project. With the home address being the Basement Workshop (34 Elizabeth Street), it was just outside Chinatown.
William Wei writes of Bridge:
It is uncertain who conceived of Bridge. Most people credit Danny N.T. Young, the charismatic founder of Basement Workshop, which published the magazine until 1979. Yung was an urban planner who wrote the Ford Foundation funded Chinatown Report, 1969, and was looking for additional means of disseminating his research. Hence the inception of the magazine, whose first issue (July-August 1971) did have an article on Chinatown based on the Report and the Chinatown Health Survey. While it is unclear how instrumental Yung was in the birth of Bridge, there is little doubt that he played a significant role in its development, especially in the areas of fund raising and artwork. (Wei, 113)
The advertisement for Bridge that appeared in Amerasia Journal ran as follows:
From China we have tossed across a wondrous sea
If not ourselves, our forefathers
And landed in this foreign world
Where we have found a joke
A pilgrim who stays and eats in the house
Becomes not one of the family
one day he has to pack his bags
And where does he go from here?
--Yvonne Lai (student)
"Culturally I will always be a Chinese."
--Fred Wu (statistician)
"I feel like a schizophrenic."
--Siu Mann Chinn (student)
"We are confronted with a growing with a growing amount of work in being alert for Chinese-Americans and others in this country who would assist Red China in supplying needed material for promoting Red Chinese propaganda."
--J. Edgar Hoover (Director, FBI)
"I am a Chinese and I am an American. I'm proud to be both."
--Helen Lee (graphic designer)
When Cultures collide, the cost of human adjustment is often high. Acculturation has confused our identity. We have been stereotyped by the white society and many of us have internalized these false images.
We know that many of you share our concern. The idea for Bridge Magazine came about because we believe in an objective and collective effort to seek solutions. We do not have the answer, nor do we pretend to have it, but we believe that through nation-wide presentation of the pressing issues, we can stimulate involvement and interaction. Together we can explore the problems and find the solutions.
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- Asian Magazine Collage from Bridge 1.2 (1971)
- Bridge 1.1. Cover