Author, cartoonist has something to say
By Jennifer Kho
Monday, March 01, 2004 - FREMONT -- Many basketball fans are fascinated by Houston Rockets' Yao Ming, but freelance cartoonist and author Oliver Chin took his interest a step further.
Chin wanted to know more about the 7-foot, 6-inch star from China than he could find in newspapers or on television. So he decided to write a book about Yao, who in 2002 became the first international player to be the top pick in the National Basketball Association draft.
Chin, whose Fremont-based graphic novel "9 of 1: A Window to the World" came out in August, released another book in December: "The Tao of Yao: Insights from Basketball's Brightest Big Man."
A Los Angeles native who graduated from Harvard University with a degree in social studies, Chin said he began writing and cartooning in high school and university publications. He was the graphics editor for the Harvard Crimson and contributed to other school publications before graduating.
After graduating, Chin began concentrating more on the publishing business. He designed advertisements and other materials for book publisher Simon & Schuster; worked for Viz Communications, a San Francisco publisher of Japanese comics; and directed sales and marketing at North Atlantic Books in Berkeley.
At the same time, he continued to contribute to publications such as Asian Week and the Street Sheet as a freelance columnist, reviewer and po-
litical cartoonist. Last year, he finally took the plunge and wrote and illustrated his own novels, published by North Atlantic Books.
"It was a window of opportunity for me to actually pursue a couple of ideas I had and make them a reality," he said.
"The two projects were very different but I found it was very gratifying for me to be able to conceive and complete them. Both were challenges of a lifetime, but also steppingstones."
He enjoys writing and illustrating because "I feel -- as everyone feels -- that I have something to say and I want to be able to say it in a way that not only can get someone to listen but also to get someone to learn."
The graphic novel "9 of 1: A Window to the World" was about the events of Sept. 11, 2001, but was based in Fremont and Union City and is meant to make people more aware of the diverse cultures and histories of people living in their community, Chin said.
For the book about Yao, however, the challenge was to tackle a whole different genre, he said.
As a third-generation Chinese-American, Chin said he felt he could bring the story of Yao, and the principles of Taoism, into modern perspective.
As an example, he brought up the episodes of Shaquille O'Neal taunting Yao in fake Chinese and sports commentator Steve Kerr calling Yao a 'Chinaman.'
"There is still a huge gulf of ignorance and insensitivity that occurs," he said.
"(Talking trash) is part of the game, but in a large sense it's also part of our culture -- you can't separate the two when you're living in a society where athletes are deified and then torn down when they are less than perfect.
"In a real way, Yao is a role model for people, and not just because of his athletic achievements.
"He puts a human face on how we would want to act if we were in the same position."
"On the Job" profiles people with unusual occupations in the Tri-City area. Contact coordinating reporter Robert Airoldi at (510) 353-7011 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or write The Argus.