American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Format: Graphic Novel
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: 2006
The Short Version:
Chinese fables are intertwined in the stories of Chinese American schoolboys facing behavior born of stereotypes.
Why I Read It:
I read the author’s two volume work about the Boxer Rebellion about a year and a half ago. I really liked it and have heard that this was also excellent.
From the publisher:
Jin Wang starts at a new school where he’s the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn’t want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he’s in love with an all-American girl. Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee’s annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny’s reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He’s ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there’s no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They’re going to have to find a way–if they want fix the disasters their lives have become.
What feels like three separate stories turn out to be linked by the end. Subtle and not so subtle stereotyping and racism plagues characters in all three stories.
Jin just wants to fit in. Danny desperately wants his cousin (deliberately written as an over the top cliché) to disappear. The monkey king just wants to be seen as a God.
Gene Luen Yang has a very distinctive style of art and uses it well. It’s simplistic at time and very bright and colorful. He really lets the artwork shine in the fable of the Monkey King.
As with Boxers and Saints, this book left me with much to ponder. It’s got a good message about accepting yourself and about how damaging even subtle racism can be.