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.
American Born Chinese is a 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature, the winner of the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album: New, an Eisner Award nominee for Best Coloring and a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
About the Author
Gene Luen Yang began drawing comic books in the fifth grade. In 1997, he received the Xeric Grant, a prestigious comics industry grant, for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, his first comics work. He has since written and drawn a number of titles, including Duncan's Kingdom (with art by Derek Kirk Kim), The Rosary Comic Book, Prime Baby and Animal Crackers. American Born Chinese, his first graphic novel from First Second, was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. He also won an Eisner for The Eternal Smile, a collaboration with Derek Kirk Kim. Yang lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he teaches high school.
Praise for American Born Chinese…
As alienated kids go, Jin Wang is fairly run-of-the-mill: he eats lunch by himself in a corner of the school-yard, gets picked on by bullies and jocks and develops a sweat-inducing crush on a pretty classmate. And, oh, yes, his parents are from Taiwan. This much-anticipated, affecting store about growing up different is more than just the story of a Chinese-American childhood: it's a fable for every kid born into a body and a life they wished they could escape. The fable is filtered through some very specific cultural icons: the much-beloved Monkey King, a figure familiar to Chinese kids the world over, and a buck-toothed amalgamation of racist stereotypes named Chin-Kee. Jin's hopes and humiliations might be mirrored in Chin-Kee's destructive glee or the Monkey King's struggles to come to terms with himself, but each character's expressions and actions are always perfectly familiar. True to its origin as a Web comic, this story's clear, concise lines and expert coloring are deceptively simple yet expressive. Even when Yang slips in an occasional Chinese ideogram or myth, the sentiments he's depicting need no translation. Yang accomplishes the remarkable feat of practicing what he preaches with this book: accept who you are and you'll already have reached out to others. (Sept.)
Graphic novels that focus on nonwhite characters are exceedingly rare in American comics. Enter American Born Chinese, a well-crafted work that aptly explores issues of self-image, cultural identity, transformation, and self-acceptance. In a series of three linked tales, the central characters are introduced: Jin Wang, a teen who meets with ridicule and social isolation when his family moves from San Francisco's Chinatown to an exclusively white suburb; Danny, a popular blond, blue-eyed high school jock whose social status is jeopardized when his goofy, embarrassing Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, enrolls at his high school; and the Monkey King who, unsatisfied with his current sovereign, desperately longs to be elevated to the status of a god. Their stories converge into a satisfying coming-of-age novel that aptly blends traditional Chinese fables and legends with bathroom humor, action figures, and playground politics. Yang's crisp line drawings, linear panel arrangement, and muted colors provide a strong visual complement to the textual narrative. Like Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Laurence Yep's Dragonwings, this novel explores the impact of the American dream on those outside the dominant culture in a finely wrought story that is an effective combination of humor and drama.
Raised in San Francisco's Chinatown, Jin Wang moves to a new neighborhood and a new school in third grade, where he quickly realizes that he's an oddball among Anglo-American classmates. Further complicating his life is the arrival of a Taiwanese student who latches onto him for companionship and sticks like a burr on through junior high. The picture of dorkiness in his huge eyeglasses, Robo Happy shirt, hiked-up pants, and cowlick, Wei-Chen Sun turns into Jin's closest friend and greatest embarrassment, both a cheerleader and a stumbling block to Jin's efforts to fit into mainstream school life and win the blonde girl of his dreams. Weaving around and ultimately converging with the seriocomic story of Jin's coming-of-age problems are two related tales that comment on issues of identity. In the first, the Chinese legendary Monkey Kong, banished from the gods' dinner party because he is a monkey, perfects his skills and disciplines to the point where he claims to have transcended his monkeyness. As "The Great Sage, Equal of Heaven," he's ready to take on all comers including the creator god Tze-Yo-Tzuh, but he is ultimately punished, humbled, and redirected to the understanding that his freedom will only come through acceptance of his true nature. The last piece of the narrative triad is a sitcom, "Everyone Wuvs Chin-Kee," complete with a laugh track, in which broadly stereotyped Chin-Kee turns up on an annual visit to Americanized cousin Danny and, in a series of classroom episodes that play out Jin Wang's worst nightmares, turns Danny's social life into a shambles. The graphic novel format is particularly well suited to managing the flow of three simultaneous storylines, and the action sequences of the Monkey King's tale and over-the-top satire on the portrayal of immigrants in American pop culture settle right into their spacious frames on the generously white bordered pages. Compositions are tidy and the palette is softly muted, so that even the strongest colors in the action scenes never reach the intensity of a visual assault. Kids fighting an uphill battle to convince parents and teachers of the literary merit of graphic novels will do well to share this title. EB
A National Book Award finalist and ALA's Printz Award winner, this fable stars the mythological Monkey King, realistic youngster Jin Wang of Taiwanese parentage, and TV sitcom teen Danny. All three are dogged by an unwanted identity and humiliated by others' prejudice. The Monkey King trains to be a god but is unceremoniously bounced out of heaven and urged by "he who is" (the great god) to be what he is: a monkey. Jin tries to be accepted and romance a fellow student but gets picked on by classmates. Danny does well with friends until Chinese cousin Chin-Kee, a bitingly funny bundle of racist stereotypes, makes his annual visit and behaves so offensively that Danny must change schools. Finally, the three stories suddenly merge, to center on Jin coming to terms with his minority experience and moving beyond his own fear and hostility. Coalescence comes almost too quickly, but the trivision approach and treatment are unique and moving. The art is simple, colorful, and both attractive and effective. Some potty humor; recommended for teen and adult collections.
-M.C. (from the Graphic Novels column by Martha Cornog & Steve Raiteri)