Justin Chin was born in 1969 in Malaysia and raised in Singapore, where he graduated from junior college. He then enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Manoa before transferring in 1991 to the journalism program at San Francisco State University, where he lost interest in journalism and turned to performance art, essays, and poetry. He also developed an interest in spoken word and became a member of the 1995 and 1996 San Francisco National Poetry Slam teams.
Chin published his first poetry collection, Bite Hard (Manic D Press), in 1997. He went on to write two more volumes of poetry, Gutted (Manic D Press, 2006), winner of the 2007 Thom Gunn Award and finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, and Harmless Medicine (Manic D Press, 2001). Chin’s work is known for its unflinching, and frequently biting, commentary on racial stereotypes, racial tension, Asian-American identity, American consumerism, sexuality, and queer identity.
He also authored four books of prose, including a collection of stories entitled 98 Wounds (Manic D Press, 2011) and the quasi-memoir Burden of Ashes (Alyson Books, 2002). Of Mongrel: Essays, Diatribes + Pranks (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011), writer Felice Picano says, “Justin Chin is so terrific in live performances that I was afraid his prose couldn’t live up to my expectations. I was wrong.”
Chin combined prose and performance in Attack of the Man-Eating Lotus Blossoms (Suspect Thoughts Press, 2005), a collection of performance art texts documenting his performance work from 1993 to 2001. Over the course of his career, he created several full-length solo performance works as well as some shorter works.
He received fellowships and grants from the California Arts Council, the Djerassi Artist Residency, the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art Awards, the PEN American Center, and the PEN Center USA West, among others. He died in San Francisco on December 24, 2016, after a massive stroke.