Seth Hahne's Reviews > American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
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Nov 21, 07

bookshelves: comics
Read in November, 2007

It's funny that the most notable thing I can tell you about this book is that it's in colour.

That might not strike you as odd, but really, for the type of story Yang tells, the comics industry has almost universally awarded such stories a black and white printing. If not autobiographical, American Born Chinese is the kind of story that might very well be.

Examining the difficulty with which a child born in one country from parents of another country, the author explores the kind of dissatisfaction common to many in similar circumstances. The desire to blend in, the need to eliminate traces of heritage. I've never felt these things in my life, but through Yang's story, I could begin to understand in a manner other than pure academic assent.

Yang weaves three narratives together in a masterful way and each sings of a different life's lesson. There is the story of the Monkey King (the classic Chinese figure), the story of Jin and his difficulty fitting into a school in which he is the only student of Chinese descent, and the story of Danny, who is plagued by his ridiculous cousin Chin-Kee (who is appears as a stereotyped caricature complete with affected speech - Ls for Rs and vice versa). Strangely, the Chin-Kee episodes actually carry a laugh track.

It should be notable that the only bad thing I have to say about the book was that I didn't find it as good as its hype. Yang's book picked up a fistful of worthy awards last year. Not just Best Graphic Novel awards but several Best Book Awards.* As good as it was, I'd read better and while I would recommend it to anyone, I can't see myself reading it more than a couple more times if I live to seventy.

*note: Best Book Awards from Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal, and San Francisco Chronicle. Plus piles of other awards from elsewhere.
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