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Bridge Magazine (1971-1986)
Bridge: the Asian-American Magazine (1971-1986)
Bridge was created in 1971 in New York City and continued until 1986. The primary force behind the magazine in its early phase was the journalist Frank Ching, who was the magazine's first editor and often its 'face'. Most of its staff were young Chinese professionals working New York City; their maturity and status gave Bridge a slightly more conventional 'magazine' look and feel than magazines like Gidra or Aion.
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.
Bridge 1.1 (July-August 1971)
Bridge Magazine 1.1
"Bridge is published bi-monthly by the Basement Workshop, Inc., 34 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10013, an independent, non-profit, cultural organization of Chinese professionals and students on the East coast.
Table of Contents
- Overseas China by Frank Ching. "The oversease Chinese number 19 million, a population larger than that of two-thirds of the member countries of the U.N. How do the Chinese fare in the lands of their adoption?"
- The Chinese student: political eunuch. "A panel discussion of Chinese student movements in the U.S." Participants: J.J. Wu (Assistant professor, psychology), Frank Ching (journalist), Peter Chow (graduate student, philosophy), K.C. Foung (engineer), Peter Kwong (graduate student, comparative politics), James Siu (graduate student, sociology), Tu Wei-Ming (assistant professor, East Asian history), Tony Yee (art student)
- New York's Chinatown: an overview by Robin Wu. "The Chinatown Study Report and the Chinatown Health Survey provide a close and wide-ranging examination of Chinatown.
- Book Review of "Stilwell and the American Experience in China" by Barbara Tuchman. Review by Robin Wu: "Perhaps the U.S. Should have stayed away from China altogether."
- Book Review of The Asian in the West by Stanford M. Lyman. Review by Rockwell Chin: "Lyman is among the few scholars to place the experience of Asians in America in the contextual framework of a predominantly white, Anglo-Saxon society in which racism has been a significant part of the central value system."
- Poem: "Untitled" by Eleanor S. Yang
- Fiction: "Homecoming" by Lin Hawi
- Films: Robin We Reviews Rider of Revenge
- Editorial: "Isn't it about time that a bridge is built--between Chinese and Chinese, between Chinese and the larger society."
"A lone Chinese man arrived in new York City in 1807. The chinese in 1971 are still alone. Set apart from fellow Chinese by family background, by dialectal differences, by political outlooks, by a university degree -- or lack of it ... Set apart from the rest of the American society whi their Chinatowns of pagoda roofs and commercial bustle, in the suburban mahjong sesions, in the social clubs and student associations on university campuses ... Set apart by political impotence, for traditional Chinese distaste for politicians and historical discrimination have combined to produce a virtual exclusion of Chinese from U.S. political life... Set apart by the subtle discrimination and verbal racial slurs that have replaced the murderous rampages of old....
Isn't it about time the terrible aloofness of the Chinese is destroyed? And a bridge built--between chinese and Chinese, between Chinese and the larger society?
We believe it's time to build such a bridge."
The issue contains an advertisement for Amerasia Journal and the Asian-American Resource Center (i.e., the Basement Workshop).