Elena's Reviews > American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
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Mar 18, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: graphic-novels, young-adult, male-protag, reviewed
Read from March 17 to 18, 2011

The stories of an ambitious Monkey King, Chinese-American boy Jin Wang, and a sitcom starring all-American Danny and his embarrassing cousin Chin-Kee reflect one another and intertwine in this graphic novel. Jin Wang struggles to fit in at school, fighting stereotypes and wishing he were able to transform himself as easily as the Transformers he watches on TV. The Monkey King masters Kung Fu until he is more powerful than all the other gods but is unable to gain respect from his fellow deities. Both of them must come to accept that they can't change who they are, and that being who they are isn't a bad thing.

Gene Luen Yang has crafted a masterful story about self-acceptance in this graphic novel. Each of the three storylines is effective and poignant on its own. Jin's struggles are struggles that all teens can identify with on some level. The addition of the Monkey King gives Jin's journey a familiar narrative frame, and Danny's story is a painful reminder of the stereotypes encountered in popular media, with which the story is contrasted. The surprising way the three stories intersect at the end of the novel is extremely effective at showing how real life can be affected by narratives, beliefs, and stereotypes.

Yang's illustrations are wonderful, and this story could not have been told anywhere near as effectively in text alone. We are able to see the transformations of Jin and the Monkey King, and the illustrations of walking stereotype Chin-Kee contrast painfully (in an effective way) with the rest of the characters. Lark Pien's coloring is beautifully done--the vivid colors combined with Yang's illustrations make American Born Chinese a gorgeous book as well as an engaging story.

I loved this book. I found it engaging, attractive, and effective. I feel like I understand both myself and others better having read it, and there's really not much more you can ask of a book. I would enthusiastically recommend it to almost anyone, not just teens, and not just graphic novel fans.
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