Review American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese

Review American Born Chinese

Gene Luen Yang is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

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.

American Born Chinese is a 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature, the winner of the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album: New, an Eisner Award nominee for Best Coloring, a 2007 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, and a New York Times bestseller.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
4Yang does a very good job of using multiple storylines and connecting them together …
By Jason Jia
“I do not make mistakes, little monkey. A monkey I intend you to be. A monkey you are,” said by the god Tze Yo Tzuh in the book American Born Chinese. This line stuck with me for the entire book as it seems to express Gene Luen Yang’s message well. Yang does a very good job of using multiple storylines and connecting them together although without a little bit of background knowledge on Chinese lore, it may be a bit confusing at first. I believe that the story is largely focused on accepting who you are. Being an American- Chinese person myself I was immediately drawn to the title of the book since I knew I could relate to the story already. I enjoyed this book so much that within an hour give or take I had finished it. It seems that I am not the only one who enjoyed the book as it’s been awarded the Michael L. Printz award and is a national book award finalist. New York Times even says “Gene Luen Yang has created that rare article: a youthful tale with something new to say about American youth.” Gene has also written other well known graphic novels such as Boxers & Saints and the Avatar: The Last Airbender series.Another interesting thing about this book is that it’s a graphic novel and a well done one at that. Something definitely not expected was the humorous and colorful artwork used that makes it looks like a children’s book. Although the illustrator did a great job of making each page enjoyable and different with the characters facial expressions and actions.The first storyline follows a monkey king who after being denied entrance to a party, becomes obsessed with changing his image to fit in with the human gods. Then Yang introduces Jin Wang, who is an American born Chinese kid who recently moved into a new town and is bullied for being asian. Lastly we are introduced to Danny, who has a stereotypical “fresh off the boat” cousin who joins him once a year in America. Although these seem like completely different stories, Yang concludes each one so that if you hadn’t read on of the stories you’d be clueless. After reading the book I realized that this story shares a lot of the same things with the movie Karate Kid (2010). In both cases the main character has moved into a new environment where they are considered to be different and are shamed because of their race. Eventually they both make a friend that will help them out.Since this is classed as a Young Adult novel, I would recommend it for 13-17 year olds since I think that by then you would’ve experienced some of the situations in this book and be able to relate more with the character.The ending of the story seems to me a little bit rushed where the three stories all of the sudden join together and stop. It’s a difficult thing to explain but when I finished the book my reaction was “that’s it?” I’d like to know what happens to Wei Chen and Jin Wang and maybe their futures. Does Jin Wang use his past experiences and pass it onto others? In conclusion I highly recommend taking the time to read this book.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
5Beautifully Told Story, Hugely Important Lessons
By Suzi
I love this graphic novel! And as some other reviewers have noted, it goes a long way in disproving the notion that comics and graphics novels “don’t count” as real literature. Gene Luen Yang, deftly tackles issues of racism, cultural and national identity, identity crisis and belonging, friendship, coming of age, as well as spirituality in this work and none of it comes of as a sermon or a bludgeon to the head. The entire piece is so relatable and so very relevant for all of us today.I will also say that there have been critical reception to some of the characters in the graphic novel, most notably Chin-Kee. Yes, that name is an obviously play on the slur “chinky” and yes, the character is the epitome of Chinese-ethnic stereotypes – but the character is used here to acknowledge and challenge the ways in which we racialist and dehumanize “others”, and Chin-Kee exists further to symbolize the fear of difference Danny carries within himself, the fear of being recognized as the different one, and of the self-hatred Jin has for himself.I’d also point out that this is a graphic novel written and illustrated by an American Born Chinese-ethnic, who’s parents were immigrants from Taiwan. However, Yang is clear to point out in interviews that while he had some similar experiences growing up – this is NOT his story. It is not an autobiography or auto-fiction. I think that’s important for readers to understand as well. Also being written by a person of color, the narrative moves along and our protagonists are able to reach the conclusion of their journeys without the help of the “White savior” trope – something a lot of other narratives with PoC lead feature to many’s disappointment.This is a poignant story that needs to be read and shared, and is so genuine. I absolutely recommend it, and I think it can be enjoyed by people of all ages, including younger kids.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
4The dilemma of assimilation
By James R. Gilligan
Gene Luen Yang’s graphic narrative combines elements of autobiography, Chinese mythology, and magical realism to create a tale of “othered” youth to which any young adult or adult who has ever struggled with the dilemma of assimilation should be able to relate.Yang adds ample doses of snarky humor to his intricately woven narrative, which seems to develop along three distinct strands. The narrative opens with the tale of the Monkey King, a Chinese mythological figure who feels slighted by the more powerful gods and resolves to prove his power and might. Next we meet Jin, the American-born Chinese of the title. We follow Jin’s tale through middle school as he endeavors to identify as a member of “mainstream” American youth by avoiding fellow Asian students, adopting an “American” hairstyle, and dating a Caucasian girl in his class. The final narrative strand focuses on Danny, a white American teenager who is bedeviled by annual visits from his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee, who behaves in stereotypically boorish ways and alienates Danny from his peers.Yang ultimately conjoins the three strands in a way that highlights the complexities of ethnic identity—and Identity in general—that confront American youth, especially those who are visibly “other.” Yang’s skill in highlighting this issue in metaphorically powerful ways is quite effective and should lead to some difficult but important questions from both young adult and adult readers.

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