Archive for the ‘Asian-American’ Category

American Born Chinese

August 13, 2012

American Born Chinese

August 13, 2012

American Born Chinese

Author: Gene Luen Yang

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Multi-Cultural Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: San Francisco, California

Time Period: Modern/Mythical Time

Plot Summary: This is a graphic novel that blends traditional Chinese mythology with racial stereotypes and understanding identity. This novel has three separate stories. The first is the tale of the Monkey King, a Chinese Myth. The second story follows a Chinese boy named Jin Wang who moves from China-Town, in San Francisco, to an all white suburb and his struggles to fit in. The third story follows a white-American boy named Danny whose Chinese cousin comes to visit. “Chin-Kee,” his cousin, displays all the racial stereotypes of Chinese peoples. This novel won numerous awards including the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album.

Subject Headings: Chinese – Graphic Novel; Chinese Mythology — Graphic Novel; Race identity– Fiction; Chinese Stereotypes – Graphic Novel

Appeal: Thoughtful, Engaging, Honest, Candid, Detailed, Engrossing, Complex, Realistic, Mythical, Thought-Provoking, Multiple- Points of View, Artistic

Three appeal terms:  Candid, Mythical, Complex

Three fiction read-alikes:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This book is a look at Junior, a teen-ager, who is a Spokane Indian. He lives on the reservation with his family, but decides to go to an all-white high school. This book contains wonderful illustrations and deals with race-identity and racial stereo types.

Black and White by Paul Volponi

This book looks at the disparities in the justice system between blacks and whites in America.  It follows the story of two friends, one black and one white: Marcus and Eddy. They both play basketball and are best friends, but one day they both commit the same crime, will one be treated differently than the other because of race?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This novel is a classic in American Literature. It is a story about a black man who is wrongly accused of a crime and the white lawyer who goes against the “norm” to represent the accused.  It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.

Three related non-fiction titles:

Chinese Mythology: An Introduction by Ann M. Birrell

This book includes over three-hundred Chinese myths translated by Anne Birrell. The reason this book is so amazing is that many of the myths are from classical texts that have never been translated for the west.

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah

This novel is a true account of Adeline Mah’s childhood told as the classical Cinderella story. Her father re-marries after her mother dies in child-birth and the life she and her siblings have to endure at the hands of their “wicked” step-mother. She is treated the worst of all.

Driven Out: The Forgotten War against Chinese Americans by Jean Pfælzer

This is a look at the shocking truth behind the systematic purging of Chinese people from 1848 till the 1900s in the West. This is a true story of triumph over adversity as the Chinese did not sit still for this treatment and fought back for their civil-rights.

– Charles Ford

American Born Chinese

April 18, 2012

Author: Yang, Gene Luen

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: America

Time Period: Current

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: This book holds three stories of characters that are struggling with acceptance in their society. The Monkey King is a character of old Chinese fable, a deity who mastered the art of kung fu and wants to be more than just a monkey. Jin Wang is the son of two foreign Chinese parents and just moved from Chinatown to an “All-American” neighborhood. Jin Wang struggles as he tries to fit in and make friends. The last character is Danny. He is a blonde-haired kid who is popular, until his cousin Chin-Kee, a stereotypical Chinese character, shows up and ruins his life. These three stories are interrelated and as they unfold, readers learn what it is like to be an Asian American. This metaphorical story is full of thought-provoking storylines. This is a coming-of-age book that is funny, moving, and thoughtful.

Subject Headings: Chinese Americans Comic books, strips, etc.
Identity (Psychology) Comic books, strips, etc.
Schools Comic books, strips, etc.
Chinese Americans Fiction.
Identity Fiction.
Schools Fiction.
Cartoons and comics.
Graphic novels.

Appeal: fast-paced, thought-provoking, intricately-plotted, funny, metaphoric, moving, thoughtful, contemporary, realistic, inspirational, resolved ending, interrelated, character-driven, intricately plotted, engaging, and coming of age.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  thought-provoking, intricately-plotted, and funny

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Mar, M.Elaine – Paper Daughter: A Memoir (A life of a Chinese immigrant girl who copes with life in American as she struggles with society and family)

Garrison, Philip – Because I don’t have Wings: stories of Mexican immigrant life (Story of first generation Mexican immigrant as they cope with their life in the new land)

Felder, Leonard – Fitting In is Overrated: the survival guide for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider (A guide to help people deal with others making one feel like an outsider at work, in family, etc.)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Clugston-Major, Chynna – Queen Bee (The main character, Haley, is a newly transferred student who is determined to be popular)

Lee, Marie G – Necessary Roughness (A 16-year old Korean boy who moves to Minnesota with his family now must deal with racism on the football team and his strict father)

Adoff, Jaime – Jimi & me (Keith James is a 12-year old of a mixed race. After his father’s death, he moves to a small town where he is not accepted because of his heritage)

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.

Name: Jun Yoon

The Gangster We Are All Looking For

August 17, 2011

Author: Lê Thi Diem Thúy

Title: The Gangster We Are All Looking For

Genre: Multicultural, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: May 6, 2003

Number of Pages: 160

Geographical Setting: San Diego, California

Time Period: 1970s, 1980s

Plot Summary: The unnamed narrator, a six year old girl, is flees Saigon to California leaving her mother and deceased brother behind.  The story jumps around in time detailing different accounts of her childhood playing with friends in a washing machine box to fights between her mother and father where afterward, things would be broken and people would be bruised.  Their marriage is strained by their efforts to adapt to American culture, but also by the memories left behind.  The father was a “Buddhist gangster” which left his wife’s parents to be opposed to the marriage.  The narrator with a conflicted and troubled mind runs away from at sixteen.  The story is lyrical and relaxed and the stories fold together like poems written from different points of the narrator’s life.

Subject Headings: Family Relationships, Vietnamese-Americans, Father and Daughter

Appeal: detailed, descriptive, engrossing, moving, introspective, character-centered, flashbacks, poetic, nostalgic

3 terms that best describe this book: compelling, emotionally-charged, poignant

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Madre and I: a Memoir of Our Immigrant Lives by Guillermo Reyes

This is the story of Reyes life leaving Chile to live in Los Angeles with his mother while coping with sexuality and body issues.  It is also about immigrants living in California finding their place.  (memoir, poignant)

This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

Wolff chronicles his past discussing his wandering mother, his abusive step-father, and the strange processes of growing up.  Similar to Lê’s novel, this memoir discusses an abusive home life and is a coming of age story.  (nostalgic, reflective)

The Unwanted by Kien Nguyen

The son of an American businessman and a wealthy Vietnamese woman reflects on his life living in Saigon in 1975 after the exodus of the American troops and his journey to the United States.  Similar to Lê’s novel, this work discusses life in Saigon where she fled to come to America. (engaging, compelling)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao

This coming of age story is about a Vietnamese girl who comes to America and learns about her family’s past in Vietnam. (nostalgic, moving)

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

This novel encompasses the story of two generations of four Chinese American women and their daughters. (witty, encompassing)

Yellow: Stories by Don Lee

This work contains stories of Asian American lives focusing on ethnic diversities but also universal fears of love, failure, abandonment.  Similar to Lê’s work it is about Asian Americans living in California.  (literary, unpredicted)

Name: Christina Freitag


No-No Boy

August 17, 2011

Author: John Okada

Title: No-No Boy

Genre: Multi-cultural, Asian-American

Publication Date: 1957

Number of Pages: 260

Geographical Setting: Seattle, WA

Time Period: 1945, just following World War II

Series: n/a

Plot Summary: 25 year old Ichiro grew up in Seattle, but for four years sat captive, experiencing the horrors of internment camps and prisons. The United States punished Ichiro, as they did countless Japanese-Americans, because he resembled the enemy. Ichiro was a no-no boy, a Japanese-American who refused to fight in WWII. Now, the country he loved and viewed as a beacon of hope has turned its back on him because he did not have the heart to fight a war. Following the end of WWII and his release from prison, Ichiro constantly struggles with shame and regret for his decision. Although Ichiro’s parents represent his biggest supporters, home offers little comfort; Ichiro’s mother believes Japan has won the war and awaits the arrival of Japanese ships to bring the family home. Meanwhile, Ichiro’s internal struggles alter his once bright personality and strong ambition. The only chance for Ichiro to regain his lost identity is through friendship and self-acceptance.
Okada, a Japanese-American, respectfully and accurately depicts the struggles of Japanese-Americans following World War II. The author examines key issues related to immigration including profound conflicts of culture and racism. Okada does so in a detailed and accessible manner. The themes and writing style render this book a timeless resource for any one living, or curious about, the immigrant experience in the United States.

Subject Headings: Japanese-Americans; Japanese-Americans—Mass Internment, 1942-1945; Immigrants–United States; Racism–United States; Post World War II; Japanese-Americans–Family Relations; Suicide; Conflicts of Culture–United States

Appeal: Relaxed, Emotionally-charged, Poignant, Sympathetic, Evocative, Introspective, Issue oriented, Thought-provoking, Character-centered, Historical Details, Accurate, Timeless, Accessible, Intimate, Dialect, Detailed, Flashbacks

Three Terms that Best Describe this Book: Character-centered, Emotionally-charged, Timeless

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
(This memoir offers an emotionally-charged account of Japanese-American internment during WWII and the experience of Japanese-Americans following the war. Like No-No Boy, this book offers the perspective of a young Japanese-American during WWII who experiences racism, imprisonment, and culture conflicts.)

Paper Daughter by Elaine M. Mar
(Although the frame of this book differs slightly from No-No Boy because it involves Chinese immigrants in a more contemporary setting, this autobiography manages to accurately and emotionally convey the immigrant experience in the United States. A distinct similarity between the books involves the account of the struggles between an immigrant mother who denies American values and a child who embraces them,)

Looking like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald
(Gruenewald offers an emotionally-charged and accurate description of life in internment camps during WWII. The Japanese-American author offers numerous historical details in an accessible manner. The result is a timeless book about racism, immigration, overcoming adversity, and self-acceptance.)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
(This novel revolves around the tumultuous life of a Japanese-American who has just returned to the Pacific Northwest after being held captive in an internment camp. The novel appears character-driven, issue oriented, and presented at a relaxed pace. Racism represents one of the most thought-provoking issues tackled in the book.)

Color of the Sea by John Hamamura
(This story details the experiences of a Japanese-American man who is torn away from his loved ones after they are placed in an internment camp. The main character deals with a major conflict of culture as he enlists in the US army to carry out a secret mission upon Japan. This issue-oriented and character-centered book offers a timeless account of prejudice and racism. The writing style accessible and detailed.)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
(This thought-provoking and issue-oriented classic tackles racism, stereotype, and prejudice within a single US community. The plot revolves around the trial of a black man accused of raping a white woman. This is a timeless, coming-of-age story told through the prospective of a young protagonist. The storyline is character-driven.)

Free Food for Millionaires

August 17, 2011

Author:  Min Jin Lee

Title:  Free Food for Millionaires

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Asian-American Fiction

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  560

Geographical Setting:  New York City

Time Period:  1990’s

Plot Summary:  Recent Princeton economics graduate Casey Han finds herself caught between two worlds.  During her years at Princeton, she became accustomed to the lifestyle of the well-to-do upper middle class – fine dining, expensive clothing, golf outings – but upon leaving college, she is back in her working-class Korean immigrant parents’ two-bedroom apartment in Queens.  During a particularly explosive argument, Casey’s father kicks her out; she suddenly finds herself living off credit cards in Manhattan.  Casey flees to her boyfriend’s apartment, only to find him in bed with not one, but two other women.  Just when she is feeling the most vulnerable, Casey has a chance encounter with Ella Shim, an Upper-East-Side-dwelling childhood acquaintance.  Ella invites Casey to stay with her and her fiancé, Ted, and Ted finds Casey an entry-level job at his investment firm.  In this new chapter in her life, Casey encounters many issues and themes that will be familiar to twenty-something’s: unemployment or underemployment (though well-educated), feeble attempts to find financial stability, and discovering your adult self.  Underlying all this is Casey’s struggle to balance her Korean-American background and her Ivy-League self.  Lee takes the reader through the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of Casey, Ella, Ted and others as they transition through the world of haves and have-nots.

Subject Headings:  Young Women – Identity; Korean American Women; Children of Immigrants; Women College Graduates; Generation Gap

Appeal:  character driven, authentic, detailed, descriptive, unpretentious, reflective, multiple points of view, flawed characters, realistic characters, steady pacing, introspective, open-ended

3 terms that best describe this book: character driven, descriptive, reflective

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Balancing Two Worlds: Asian American College Students Tell Their Life Stories edited by Andrew Garrod and Robert Kilkenny:  14 Asian-American students from Dartmouth University share their insights on identity and their struggles with race, family (especially between generations), religion, the workplace, class, and economics.  Casey’s internal struggles are echoed in Balancing Two Worlds, a poignant look at young adults in the process of uniting their backgrounds with their current point of views.

Green with Envy: Why Keeping Up with the Joneses is Keeping Us in Debt by Shira Boss:  Boss, a business journalist, uses case studies to examine the gap between our financial realities and the public image we try to project, resulting in us living beyond our means.  If you found yourself frustrated with Casey every time she made a poor financial choice, you will find yourself engrossed in Boss’s timely look at America’s spending problem.

Hats!: Make Classic Hats and Headpieces in Fabric, Felt, and Straw by Sarah Cant:  To make ends meet, Casey takes a job selling hats at a department store.  She becomes so enamored by the structure and construction of hats that she begins to take millinery classes.  In Hats! milliner Sarah Cant takes the reader through a step-by-step introduction (with photographs) to creating hats, then expands on the basics to show how to alter designs and add trimmings for hats that are both beautiful and unique.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld:  American Wife is the fictional memoir (based on the life of former First Lady Laura Bush) of Alice Blackwell, from her tumultuous Wisconsin beginnings to her husband’s ascent to the White House.  With the ascension of her family’s political and social status, Alice struggles with her newfound privileges and expectations as a public figure.  Alice’s narration is unpretentious and authentic, and Sittenfeld gives readers a reflective, character-driven novel to become lost in.

Indignation by Philip Roth: It is 1951 and college student Marcus Messner transfers from a local college in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey to the pastoral Winesburg College in Ohio to get away from his overprotective Jewish parents.  He finds himself struggling with culture clashes, the first taste of independence on a college campus, and his academics – if he flunks out or is expelled, he will likely be enlisted to fight in the Korean War.  Like Casey, Marcus’s background adds another layer to his coming-of-age experiences in this character-driven, reflective, and descriptive novel.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri: Bengali newlyweds Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli move to Cambridge in the 1960’s and gives birth to a son named, by mistake, Gogol.  As Gogol grows up, he shuns his name and his Indian background and becomes enveloped in Ivy League WASP culture.  Reflective and descriptive, readers of Free Food for Millionaires will enjoy this character-driven novel of a young man caught between these two cultures.

Name:  Mieko Fujiura

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

April 13, 2011 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

American Born Chinese

June 23, 2010

American Born Chinese - cover

Author: Gene Luen Yang

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Fiction; Chinese-American

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: Ancient China; various typical American locations, such as high schools

Time Period: mythological China; current

Series: NA

Plot Summary: Three seemingly disparate storylines brilliantly converge in an impactful and meaningful truth in Gene Luen Yang’s, American Born Chinese. The story follows the lives of Jin Wang, a Chinese-American boy having difficulty fitting in at school, the Monkey-King, the king of all monkeys and a master of kung-fu who has his sights on the attainment of godhood at all costs, and Danny, a popular guy in high school who is beset by his stereotypical and embarassing cousin from China, Chin-Kee, who happens to ruin Danny’s life every time he visits. The art is precise, focused heavily on cartoon and the immaculate use of line, and it deftly collaborates with an emotionally vibrant and wise tale of the desire to be someone else.

Subject Headings: Graphic Novels; Chinese-Americans; Stereotypes; Racism; Social Accpetance; Mythology – Chinese;

Appeal: Compelling, bittersweet, earnest, magical, thoughtful, introspective, vivid, complex, mythic, timeless, natural, poetic.

Three terms that best describe this book: Timeless, Thoughtful, Magical.

Similar Authors and Works:

Non-Fiction –

Iris Chang – The Chinese in America: A Narrative History: A thorough narrative recounting of the history of Chinese immigration to America since 1850, from the author of The Rape of Nanking.

Ann Marie Flemming – The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam: A biography, in graphic novel format, of the great Chinese magician, entrepreneur, impresario, and world-traveler, Long Tack Sam.

Claude Helft – Chinese Mythology: Stories of Creation and Invention: Heavily illustrated by color paintings, Helft interprets 8 creation myths of China.

Fiction –

Jeanette Ingold – Paper Daughter: Maggie Chen, a Chinese-American high-school student, investigates the mysterious hit-and-run accident that killed her father while coming to grips with her ethnicity.

Jordan Sonnenblick – Zen and the Art of Faking It: Zen Buddhism provides Sun Lee with an opportunity to no only make himself known in his new school, but also to re-invent his identity.

Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki – Skim: All the trials and tribulations of high-school life seen through the eyes of Skim; an Asian-American into Goth and Wicca at an all-girls school in Toronto, Ontario.

Name: Garrett Gottschalk