American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. Roaring Brook Press, 2006. 240 pages. pap. $17.95. ISBN 978-1-59643-152-2.
Annotation: Three stories are blended together in words and pictures. One is the fable of a monkey king; another is an elementary school age boy’s attempt to fit in at a white school, and the last is a popular teenage boy’s struggle in dealing with his stereotypical Chinese cousin.
Summary: In graphic novel form, three stories are told and become intermingled in the end. The first involves a monkey king who is shut out by the gods and tries to shed his monkey form. The second involves elementary school student, Jin Wang, who wanting to be Caucasian, tries to change his appearance so he can find acceptance. The third is about a popular teenager named Danny who endures embarrassing visits from his stereotypical Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee. When Danny beats up Chin-Kee he discovers that his cousin was the monkey king in disguise. The monkey king talks to Danny about love and acceptance of others. Jin accepts his Chinese identity and becomes friends again with a Chinese immigrant whom he hurt but who is really the monkey king’s son who is passing a test of virtue.
Evaluation: The blending of the three stories (although it initially seemed random) works extremely well in this medium. Yang was able to pull the three together to form a coherent and complex whole. The vibrant artwork is easy to follow and captures the spirit of the stories. The story raises important questions about identity, friendship, racism, and acceptance. Recommended for ages 12 to 18.
Genre / Subject: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Chinese Americans, Schools, Prejudice, Identity, Racism, Acceptance, Friendship, Family, Aspirations
Awards: 2006 National Book Honor Award, 2007 Michael L. Printz Award Winner, 2007 Best Books for Young Adults, 2007 ALA Great Graphic Novels for Teens