I must admit something. This was my first graphic novel. This is a shameful thing, because my best friend Garrett is WILD about the new and growing w...more I must admit something. This was my first graphic novel. This is a shameful thing, because my best friend Garrett is WILD about the new and growing world of graphic-novel-as-progressive-art-form and is even collaborating on one with a mutual friend right now. It was time I read one.
Yang's graphic novel consists of three seemingly unrelated strands: the classic Taoist myth of the Monkey King; the story of a young Chinese-American boy trying to fit in at a school where he's one of the only Asians; and I can only describe this last one as a really offensive television show in which the supporting character and comic relief is provided by a Chinese cousin named...wait for it....."Chin-kee"......and he gets his "normal" white cousin into all sorts of trouble while replacing EVERY SINGLE l with an r, and vice versa, and referring constantly to Americanized Chinese food staples "Mooshu FIST! Kung Pao Attack!" or to the desire to bind the feet of the American girls he finds attractive. Magically (a little too magically and cleverly, perhaps) these three stories weave into each other for a neat little package at the end of the story for a very clear, meaningful moral.
I think you guys might enjoy this book for the following reasons:
1) You are interested in the experience of those living OUTSIDE the dominant culture of America OR you yourself feel that you live there already and are anxious to see someone put your frustrations into words (and pictures).
2) You love intelligent, interesting graphic novels....or would like to see what all the fuss is about even though comic books were never really your thing.
3) You enjoy finding out more about other religions and their moral-teaching myths. Taoism is a beautiful philosophy, and one on which I have read before, but somehow I never came across this Monkey King myth before. Of course, having read about it here, I went and looked it up online and it appears to be quite a classic.
One suggestion: this book is rather pricey at $16.96 for a paperback you can read in one sitting. I checked the Irving Public Library and they have it. So, if you don't see yourself as a collector of great books, especially beautiful graphic novels, but rather want a good read for as cheap as possible, I recommend doing the library thing.(less)
Okay, for those of you have read M.T. Anderson's OTHER fabulous book Feed, Octavian Nothing proves to be very interesting on a thematic comparison lev...more Okay, for those of you have read M.T. Anderson's OTHER fabulous book Feed, Octavian Nothing proves to be very interesting on a thematic comparison level. Feed is, of course, set in the distant future and depicts a very Brave New World-ish, anti-utopian warning about where we're going as a culture (and it ain't pretty, folks). Octavian Nothing, on the other hand, is set in New England during America's Revolutionary War. Both books are written in the style and vocabulary of the thoughts of its protagonists. Feed's main character is a high-school-aged boy with very little education outside of the internet and MTV, and the book, therefore, has a kind of text-messagey, anti-intellectual, lazy, sarcastic feel to it. Octavian, conversely, is a highly educated black slave, the son of an African princess and the pupil of a highly respectable classics scholar and scientist; his writing is, therefore, of a very elevated, poetic, esoteric sort. During the first fourth of the book, I kept wondering, how on EARTH are these books written by the same author?!
This is a great book for those interested in the following:
1) expanding their vocabulary exponentially. Even I had to grab a dictionary occasionally
2) African American, pre-emancipation history
3) First-hand fictional accounts of the revolutionary war (ones which are not cheesy or blindingly patriotic)
4) Exploration of human dignity, resistance, pride, bondage (of many different symbolic levels), freedom (again, transcending circumstance), and true power
I finally discovered the link between the two books in this fourth and final point. I don't want to go into too much detail for fear of ruining the book. For those who have read Feed, however, I will include the two quotes below to whet their appetites for some more M.T. Anderson this summer. I should also note that the book is organized like a collection of historical manuscripts. The first 2/3rds and the last 1/8th or so pages from Octavian's "manuscript testimony" (although it is not clear how it was obtained, nor who it was that blotted out unreadable a small handful of the pages); while the remainder is peppered and bridged with a collection of authentic looking letters, invitations, newspaper advertisements, etc. Very interesting for those fascinated by mixed-media art forms.
"'All shall be changed,' I whispered.
"'Except,' said Dr. Trefusis, looking around the gathering, 'that I fear one thing shall remain. When I peer into the reaches of the most distant futurity, I fear that even in some unseen epoch when there are colonies even upon the moon itself, there shall still be gatherings like this, where the young, blinded by privilege, shall dance and giggle and compare their poxy lesions.'"
"At long last, you may no longer distinguish what binds you from what is you."
As for maturity level, there is not much here to find objectionable, but the difficulty of the writing could be prohibitive to many readers. Might be a good choice for parent and child to share a reading and discussion of.(less)
Man, I still remember reading this when I was a wee thing, totally fascinated by this man vs. the elements story of survival. Before Survivor the real...moreMan, I still remember reading this when I was a wee thing, totally fascinated by this man vs. the elements story of survival. Before Survivor the reality show, before Lost, before Castaway, there was Hatchet. And it rocks.(less)
I've bought three copies of this book for my classroom library. Students just keep falling in love with it and keeping it. This is a favorite recommen...moreI've bought three copies of this book for my classroom library. Students just keep falling in love with it and keeping it. This is a favorite recommendation for reluctant readers, boys, and those who dabble in unwise activities. I love that the author is so honest, reckless, and edgy, and yet the story ultimately affirms a life of wisdom and grace.(less)
Alright, let me start off by saying that this is a BEAUTIFULLY written book! The imagery, the characters, the storytelling, the style is all exquisite...more Alright, let me start off by saying that this is a BEAUTIFULLY written book! The imagery, the characters, the storytelling, the style is all exquisite and really draws you in. It's almost like reading poetry. Check out a sample section here:
"I can tell he isn't genuinely confused--the serpentine master of the dodge and weave, he is trying to trick or trip me. A moment of uncertainty is all he needs, to plunge under my skin. [...] He is the shadow in the cupboard and the whisper in the wall. Fear is Finnigan's currency, his daily wine and bread. Now he's made the mortal error of drowning himself in it."
"It stung when we passed in the corridors; her voice would slice my skin. My eyes smarted at the sight of her sitting against a brick wall. A day spent in her vicinity left me exhausted: 'Ain't love grand,' said Finnigan.
One fateful day she caught me staring at her; she quirked an eyebrow and glanced away. I blushed scarlet and stared at the tabletop, an oceanic roar in my ears."
But here is my caveat! This book has some very mature, disturbing content!!!! It does not have bad words or sex or teens doing drugs, etc; but certain things occur that will make you gasp or....if you're like me, keep you up all night TOTALLY freaked out. It's closest to psychological thriller in genre, but there are a lot of different styles and subjects blended here. Not for the faint of heart or stomach, but some of you have morbid curiosities (Come on, I've read your stories!).
The main character is a boy who ranges in age from about 11 to 24 in the course of the story. It is set in a non-descript, small mountain town called Mulyan during an unspecified era (possibly even present). It COULD be called a coming-of-age story, but it is much more about guilt, the dichotomy of good vs. evil, and the deep, searing pain of being alone in the world. Have I mentioned it's rather dark?!
Parents and teachers: I refrain from revealing the exact event which earns this book such a harsh warning because it will completely spoil the book. If you need to know, just ask.(less)