Chadwick's Reviews > American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
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's review
Jan 23, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: comics, hated-it
Read in January, 2006

There are so many things that I like about this book, and so many reasons why Yang did such a good job, but the thing that really gets my goat is this: if the theme of the book is the American part of the protagonist's identity coming to terms with the Chinese part, why does Yang alter the purpose of the Monkey King's journey to the West? Instead of retrieving the sutras from India, Xuánzàng is bringing presents to the fucking baby Jesus!? Journey to the West is one of the Four Classics of Chinese literature. It's one of the most retold, most loved stories in Chinese culture. Cartoons, videogames, TV Shows. Buddhism is central to the narrative. To Christianize the story is to remove a great amount of the dignity and bravery of the story, and to pervert its purpose. I suppose an argument can be made that adaptation is a central theme of American Born Chinese, but the text is concerned with embracing one's heritage, not disemboweling it. I know that Yang teaches Catholic school, and that's great. I have nothing against Christianity. However, the desecration of great literature is something I can't really get behind, especially when it's done in a fashion that cripples the central conceit of the derivative work.

That being said, Yang is a great artist and a wonderful storyteller. If you don't give a shit about Journey to the West, this is probably a very moving little book.

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