Inspired Reading: American Born Chinese

Author/Artist: Gene Luen Yang, color by Lark Pien
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: September 5, 2006
Paperback: 240 pages
My rating: 5/5

Summary: (Taken from Goodreads) A tour-de-force by rising indy comics star Gene Yang, American Born Chinese tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny’s life with his yearly visits. Their lives and stories come together with an unexpected twist in this action-packed modern fable. American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax.

SandyInspired Comments: Yang brought me back to all the awkwardness of growing up Asian in America: being ashamed of my allegedly odd-smelling, funny-looking lunches; crushes on blond-haired, blue-eyed “All-American” boys; and trying to speak a new language while struggling with debilitating shyness. Yang also reminded me of the Chinese fables I learned through watching random CCTV (mainland China broadcaster) Journey to the West episodes dubbed in Vietnamese. I never really related to the mischievous and egocentric Monkey King, but Yang captures him wonderfully in both words and images. I love the two-paneled scene where the Monkey King changes into his giant form as the Dragon King sits on a throne laughing at him. In the second panel, the Monkey King steps on the Dragon King, “STOMP!” and the text box reads: “The Dragon King was convinced.” The entire book is filled with these visual and verbal nuggets of the painful and ridiculous: Jin Wang’s misadventures in dating, the Monkey King’s comeuppance and “test of virtue,” and cousin Chin-Kee’s mortifying antics.

Yang is a master at creating real characters and situations within a graphic genre featuring limited text (some pages are completely text-free) and hilarious caricatures of what it means to be Chinese. Ultimately, American Born Chinese is a story about self-acceptance and true friendship. I’d recommend it to anyone who can relate to Jin Wang and Danny’s experiences, or anyone interested in a good laugh, a great story, and very entertaining art.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Inspired Review: Avatar The Last Airbender: The Promise Part 1 « SandyInspired

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