American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

by Gene Luen Yang

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: September 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: American suburbs

Time Period: Present day 21st century

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

This tells the story of three different characters:  the Monkey King, Jin Wang and Chin-Kee.  Yang takes these three different tales of struggle and acceptance and weaves them together in a seamless and unexpected way that produces a surprising ending that leaves you thinking.  First, we meet the Monkey King, who is one of the oldest and most famous of Chinese fables.  Here Yang tells the story of the Monkey King and his wish to be respected and revered by all.  In order for him to garner respect and acceptance, he changes his appearance from a monkey to a man.  Next, we meet Jin Yang, a young boy whose family moves from San Francisco’s Chinatown to a community where he is one of two Asian Americans in his class.  His story is also one of struggling to blend in and be accepted and finding his place in a mostly white community.  Finally, we meet Danny, an all-American blue-eyed high school jock and his Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee.  Chin-Kee represents the ultimate negative stereotype of Chinese people, and Danny is so ashamed of Chin-Kee’s lack of Americana that he feels forced to change schools every year to evade the embarrassment of being associated with Chin-Kee.  As these three stories unfold, we learn about the struggle of what it means to be Asian in America.  This metaphorical story is a poignant, humorous and authentic look at overt and covert racism in America.

Subject Headings: Chinese-Americans, Identity (Psychology), Misfits (Persons), Racism, School, Social Acceptance, Stereotypes (Social psychology), Chinese folklore, Monkey King, Adult books for young adults.

Appeal: character-driven, intricately plotted, funny, engaging, thoughtful, fast-paced, moving, authentic, episodic, resolved ending, contemporary, metaphorical, easy, coming of age.

3 Terms that best describe this book: thought-provoking, authentic, metaphorical.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Bento Box in the Heartland:  My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America by Linda Furiya – Asian-American experience, memoir, adult book for young adults, childhood memories, food, cultural identity, United States, racism, Midwest America, childhood struggles of trying to be accepted, conflicting feelings concerning her ethnicity, identity, and her parents’ arranged marriage.

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming – graphic novel, adult book for young adults, biographical, China’s greatest magician, racism in Hollywood, Asians, Asian Americans, captivating, moving, triumphing over adversity.

Yellow:  Race in America Beyond Black and White by Frank H. Wu – history writing, Asian-American experience, racism, personal account of his own childhood experiences with racism and stereotypes of Asian-Americans, United States.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Monkey:  A Folk-Tale of China by Wu Cheng’en – Chinese fiction, folklore of the monkey king, quests, friendship, magic and morals.

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine – graphic novel, Japanese-Americans, Korean-Americans, race relations, self-discovery in men, California, friendship, interracial dating, reflective, honest, racial politics, struggles with race issues, relationship issues, and coming of age.

Yellow: Stories by Don Lee – Asian-Americans, United States, California, collection of short stories, multiple points of view, final story brings together all of the topics and struggles each character has dealt with, racism.

Name: Jeannine Kropski

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