Title & Author: American born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Summary: This Printz award-wining graphic novel pulls together three distinctly different stories of the Chinese fable of the Monkey King, Danny – who is embarrassed by his stereotypically Chinese cousin, and Jin - who is an outsider in white suburbia. The stories eventually converge and showcase a powerful Chinese-American coming-of-age story, and give a new meaning to “ABC” in a Chinese context.
Reference: Yang, G. L (2006). American Born Chinese. New York, NY: First Second.
My Impressions: I read this graphic novel through twice before the weight of the three stories really sunk in. Having lived in Taiwan, taught Taiwanese students, as well as Asian-American students and Asian history classes, I am impressed with Yang’s ability to bring such depth to this coming-of-age story.
Professional Review: /* Starred Review */ “Gr 7 Up–Graphic novels that focus on nonwhite characters are exceedingly rare in American comics. Enter American Born Chinese, a well-crafted work that aptly explores issues of self-image, cultural identity, transformation, and self-acceptance. In a series of three linked tales, the central characters are introduced: Jin Wang, a teen who meets with ridicule and social isolation when his family moves from San Francisco’s Chinatown to an exclusively white suburb; Danny, a popular blond, blue-eyed high school jock whose social status is jeopardized when his goofy, embarrassing Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, enrolls at his high school; and the Monkey King who, unsatisfied with his current sovereign, desperately longs to be elevated to the status of a god. Their stories converge into a satisfying coming-of-age novel that aptly blends traditional Chinese fables and legends with bathroom humor, action figures, and playground politics. Yang’s crisp line drawings, linear panel arrangement, and muted colors provide a strong visual complement to the textual narrative. Like Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Laurence Yep’s Dragonwings, this novel explores the impact of the American dream on those outside the dominant culture in a finely wrought story that is an effective combination of humor and drama.”
Reference: Crawford, P. C. (2006, Sept. 1). [Review of the book American born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang]. School Library Journal 52, (9), 240. Retrieved from http://schoollibraryjournal.com
Library Uses: For any library’s teen art club, this would be a useful book in using in conjunction with a lesson on teaching panel graphic art.