In regard to page 29/30 of “Pat and George” where Frank Chin writes that my father’s song, “Azaleas in Bloom” is about the 1937 “Incident at Marco Polo Bridge,” I have to set the record straight. My father, Chinese music composer Hwang Yau-tai, wrote “Azaleas” in 1941, in the middle of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War. The song has nothing to do with the Marco Polo Bridge incident.
When Frank Chin sent me a copy of part of his manuscript in 2012 to check “the facts,” I was surprised. Frank, as a playwright and social critic, also writes fiction, so I accorded him that courtesy, which is more than he’s done for writers like Maxine Hong Kingston, David Henry Hwang, and the usual suspects. I just thought Frank was making things up, but when he uses my father’s name, I have to speak up. The song is about a boy who goes off to war and his lover tells him that she will wear an azalea in her hair and later on her chest when he comes back. I even had someone translate the poem for Frank since he is not fluent in Chinese. I was worried that because the song is so well-known and is still being sung, that people would suspect that Frank was writing an untruth. I shouldn’t have bothered to get worried: people who know my father’s music don’t read Frank Chin and people who read Frank Chin have never heard of my father.
P.S. There is a YouTube recording with two women singing “Azaleas” in a 2010 memorial concert in Texas. I ask you: do these women look like they’re singing about blood drops in the water under the Marco Polo Bridge?