Tuesday, June 28, 2011

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Book:  American Born Chinese
Author:  Gene Luen Yang
Publisher:  First Second
Year:  2006
Reason I read it:  I had to read 2 graphic novels for my YA lit class.  This one was a Printz Award winner and an ALA Top Ten.
My Grade:  A

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. 

My Review

Wow!  Just, wow!  My head is reeling from the epicness that is “American Born Chinese”!  First, I have to say that this book is funny.  Really funny.  There were so many funny parts, I was in stitches a good portion of the time.  There were 3 separate stories, or so I thought.  There was a story about a young boy named Jin who is the American born Chinese boy.  There is a legend about a Chinese monkey king.  There is a story about a white boy named Danny who has a Chinese cousin named Chin-kee.

Yes, Chin-kee…..obviously a play on the horrible racist term. And he is the stereotypical Chinese person and personifies every single bad stereotype.  The book is full of that sort of thing.  Like when Jin calls his friend an “FOB” for fresh off the boat!  There are lots of references to the mixing of cultures and how difficult it is to grow up Asian in a white society.

The book is very quick to read because it is a graphic novel, so I found myself constantly turning pages.  Yet, it is very interesting to read and quite entertaining.  I kept wondering why there seemed to be 3 separate story lines.  Then, wham!  What does the author do?  He combines them and packs a huge punch of an ending that left me reeling!  I couldn’t believe that he could use that much humor and entertainment to bring the novel to an end with such profundity.  It was amazing.

Gene Luen Yang, I bow to your greatness.

This book was a solid A.  If you’re looking for a quick read, that’s funny and entertaining but packs a whopper of a message, “American Born Chinese” is the book for you!

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