American Born Chinese · Asian American writers · book reviews · graphic novels

American Born Chinese

Last week, I finished reading American Born Chinese for my Diversity and Identity course. While the ending was very YA-ish, I enjoyed it immensely.

I’ve decided to set up the graphic novel as a whole, and will not spoil it for anyone who wants to read it.

Gene Luen Yang, who is himself Chinese-American, is well aware of the various forms of racism that Asian Americans face. In his graphic novel American Born Chinese, he approaches this broad topic unflinchingly. When his titular character, Jin, is eating lunch at recess one day, is mistaken for eating dog instead of actual dumplings:

Hmph. Stay away from my dog.

In addition to the multiple examples of individual and institutional racism that Jin Wang experiences, American Born Chinese deals with the consistent YA struggle of teens figuring out how to remain true to themselves. Jin, in this respect, must come to terms with just being himself. This is only made harder because of his dual identity as someone who is not only an American, but also someone who is Chinese as well.

The Monkey King, who is a master of kung-fu, is discriminated against because he is a monkey. In heaven, the gods and goddess won’t accept him as a deity. Like Jin, the Monkey King is facing the struggle of just being okay with himself.

And then there’s Danny who is an American high-schooler. He feels embarrassed when his cousin Chin-Kee (the name makes me cringe) arrives to visit. Because of Chin-Kee, Danny starts to look different to his peers, including the girl he likes.

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.

Overall, this is a fantastic YA graphic novel. I highly recommend it!

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