UNC Middle School Lit discussion

American Born Chinese

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message 1: by Bev (last edited Mar 12, 2010 03:43PM) (new)

Bev | 3 comments Mod
Comment here on your experience reading American Born Chinese. You can write about your impressions as you read, any difficulties, or critically analyze the content, just be sure the address the way the text AND pictures contribute to your answer.

message 2: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 12 comments I didn't think I was going to like American Born Chinese, but I ended up really enjoying it. Once I got used to reading with pictures and words simultaneously, I was able to actually concentrate on the story rather than on just the style of the graphic novel. It was a little confusing at first how there was the story about the monkey king along with the stories about the Chinese immigrant and the American boy, but I liked how all the individual plots came together in the end. I feel like the style of the graphic novel would be very appealing for those on lower reading levels or those just learning the English language. Perhaps this would be an especially good book for a student who has just come to the United States. I felt like the author took a positive approach, encouraging students to not lose their identities, while adding in important themes regarding stereotyping of immigrants, middle and high school typical feelings of not fitting in, identity issues, and others. I felt like the pictures kept me from creating pictures in my head of what I thought was happening in the story, but they served to show emotions and give the story a context. I like how the pictures aid in comprehension of everything that is going on in the story. For me, the emotion in the faces of Jin and the other characters were the most important part of the story, even more so than the words.

message 3: by Stacey (new)

Stacey | 11 comments I thought American Born Chinese was interesting in the way that the stories were intertwined throughout the novel. The use of the tale was great especially the ways that Yang could draw the pictures. For example, on page 19, the pile of dead people looks quite unrealistic, but is a perfect illustration for a tale like this. Also, the pictures add humor to the story. On page 33, the irony in the "buck tooth" joke made me laugh out loud. Other than the pictures and humor, the messages portrayed in the story were strong. I think that most young adult have something in their life where they feel like they are in the minority (obviously some more than others). I think it is important that these students have literature like this book where they can connect their personal lives to the characters. Also, even if students do not feel left out or know what it is like to be a minority, it is important to know how different people feel. That way they can respect others better.

message 4: by Kristin (new)

Kristin (kmhardin) | 14 comments I found it difficult to begin reading American Born Chinese, mostly because I had very little experience in reading this type of graphic novel. I didn't know whether to read the text first or look at the pictures first when they were both thrown out at you at once, as well as the other scenes nearby on the page. I also didn't really know in what order to read certain pages, such as page 70, because the sizes of the pictures are different and so their order is a little unclear. However, these pages do you make you slow down a bit and really look at what is going on to make sure that everything makes sense. I wasn't sure how I would like the book, but I ended up enjoying the three different sets of characters and their stories, each having some Chinese reference - the Chinese-American, the Chinese fable of the monkey king, and the negatively stereotypical Chinese man. I didn't think that they needed to be brought together in the end - they stood alone fine on their own - but it did kind of bring together a neat ending that I'm sure kids would like since they usually like endings without any questions hanging and with everything tied up together at the end. The pictures and text definitely play an integrated role - neither one could stand on their own. Each one clears up any confusion produced by the other. The pictures are almost necessary because they show you everything that's going on, like watching a tv show. However, it does limit your imagination from working like it would when reading a book with only text. The pictures are necessary though because they show exactly what the author is wanting to show - something that you may not understand or get a great mental image of when you read just text can be shown in a graphic novel. Also, a lot of humor comes from the way the text and pictures work together. Something that someone said may not be funny until you look closer at what's happening in the scene.

message 5: by Lindsey (last edited Mar 16, 2010 10:02AM) (new)

Lindsey Hensler | 11 comments Initially, I found American Born Chinese difficult to read because it was a different style of text that I had never really read before. I suppose that it is similar to how cartoons are written in weekend newspaper editions. It was difficult because I am so accustomed to having a continuous picture in my head while I read, that when I was being presented with new pictures for every two or three sentences/phrases, but there was no transition. When reading a novel, I continuously reflect and create visions of what is going on and am not used to this "snapshot" form of reading pictures and words.
However, as I kept reading, I began to understand the style a little bit better and the content slowly began to flow for me, but was flowing in a different way than novel content does for me. As I began to see how the content and pictures matched one another and worked together and focused on them together instead of their separateness and trying to create my own pictures in my head, it became easier for me to read.
What I found to be especially interesting is that this style is not very different from how children's books are written because there are new pictures on each page with a few sentences. I am interested to know why reading a graphic novel would seem so different to me than reading a children's book besides the obvious difference of reading level (content). It is possible that many children's books are told with words but a lot of the focus is on the illustrations, whereas with a graphic novel, text and pictures are of a more equal importance.

message 6: by Natalie (new)

Natalie | 15 comments I found it easy to read because of the pictures. They added to the understanding of the context of the situation. Being able to tell which characters were Asian helped to understand them and why they did or didn't feel like they fit in. Although the pictures greatly enhanced the book and my understanding the characters and message, I would not have been able to understand the book without the text. I probably could have understood the book without the pictures, but it would have been very shallow.

They book had a message that a lot of people (young and old) need to hear. Don't try to change who you are to be liked by others. Be satisfied with who you are, and when you change who you are, do it because it will make you a better person, not because someone will like you more.

message 7: by Natalie (new)

Natalie | 15 comments I found it easy to read because of the pictures. They added to the understanding of the context of the situation. Being able to tell which characters were Asian helped to understand them and why they did or didn't feel like they fit in. Although the pictures greatly enhanced the book and my understanding the characters and message, I would not have been able to understand the book without the text. I probably could have understood the book without the pictures, but it would have been very shallow.

They book had a message that a lot of people (young and old) need to hear. Don't try to change who you are to be liked by others. Be satisfied with who you are, and when you change who you are, do it because it will make you a better person, not because someone will like you more.

message 8: by Jamie (new)

Jamie | 13 comments When I first looked at this book I wanted to throw it against the wall. My eyes jumped from frame to frame and ]because the pictures were so colorful and busy that I could not focus on the words. I am the type of person who enjoys reading every single word of every book so it stressed me out to feel like I was missing lots of important lines from the text and reading out of order. Once I got used to the disarray and semi chaotic reading arangment, after about 10 minutes into reading, I became more comfortable with the novel.
Eventually I began to rely on the pictures and the text to fully tell me the story. I now think without the pictures I would have been very confused separating and distinguishing between the characters.
Although I do not particularly like this book I did end up enjoying it a little more than I had thought. The take home message of the book is a very important one that I think could possible be the up most important lesson to root into the lives of middle school children, "IT IS OK TO BE YOU!"

message 9: by Madison (new)

Madison Pinkowski | 12 comments I liked the storyline of American Born Chinese, but the graphic novel format was difficult for me. I understand that the pictures and the text are meant to reinforce each other, but for me it was almost like they were competing with each other- do I look at the picture and then read the caption? Or should I read the words and then look at the picture? Also, I couldn't really focus on any one frame because there were so many others on the page, which was very distracting. It took me a lot longer to read the book than I thought it would, because often I would read the caption, look at the picture, and then forget what was going on, so I'd have to go back and do the whole thing again. Maybe if I had ever read comic books as a kid, reading the graphic novel would have been easier for me, but I found the whole experience to be very tiring (my eyes and brain felt tired when I was done) and slightly frustrating (I don't need all these pictures, just give me the words!) Like I said, I really liked the story that American Born Chinese told- but I think I would have liked it much better if it had been a short story or something like that, rather than a graphic novel. Overall, I think graphic novels are great for certain kids, and definitely kids who get stressed out/don't like reading word after word, page after page; but they're not for me.

message 10: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Utin | 12 comments I enjoyed reading American Born Chinese and found it a very easy read. The text and pictures go hand in hand. They worked so well together as a combination that I can't imagine one without the other. The plot interested me, and the way the three stories interwove was genius. It produced a satisfying ending.

It was also a creative way of showing the negative side affects of discrimination in a down-to-earth fashion. The vicious cycle people slip into does indeed exists. The moral of the story: If you treat someone badly, they are more likely to pass on that treatment. If you treat someone well, that treatment passes on as well. Discrimination is a sad but prevalent issue, especially when it comes to immigration issues because of the divides society has place between cultures and races.

This book also encourages the reader to be his individual self and not to be ashamed of it. The monkey king and Jin learn to find satisfaction through being themselves and accepting what they were made. What an excellent message for young readers.

message 11: by Katie (new)

Katie B. | 13 comments I was very surprised that I enjoyed reading American Born Chinese! When I checked it out I thought I would hate it- it was a graphic novel, seemed marketed to males, and looked terrible. I found it to be a very easy and quick read. Since it was a graphic novel, I found that pictures allowed me to skim the text. I thought it was challenging to read at first because my eyes couldn't decide what order to look at the text and pictures. After a few minutes it became second-nature. American Born Chinese seemed like movie stills, detailing the major plot points from a film. Universal themes of inclusion, growing up, and accepting yourself are applicable to all readers. I liked the different stories mentioned, but I do wish the ending had been stronger. Overall, I thought it was a great book!

message 12: by Alexandra (new)

Alexandra (alexandrapappas) | 10 comments I found American Born Chinese hard to read. My problem with graphic novels is that I tend to skim really fast through the words and ignore the pictures. It was hard for me to train my eyes to look at the whole image (picture+text), thus I didn't really enjoy reading the novel. I did, however, once I got through it, enjoy the storyline of American Born Chinese. I definitely think its a cute story, and would be a great novel to hand to kids who don't particularly like to read. With American Born Chinese, you get a wholesome story without the feel of reading a novel. It offers a good message about fitting in and being yourself to children of all ages.

message 13: by Holli (new)

Holli Jacobs | 8 comments I found it quite difficult to read American Born Chinese...I tend to be easily distracted and found it hard to focus on the pictures and text enough to get a strong understanding of the book. The text was helpful, however, but I found myself concerned if I was actually reading the pictures and text in the right order. However, it was a good book and I think that many students would enjoy reading graphic novels like American Born Chinese... particularly students who aren't the best at reading text, and those students who like analyze things (they have analyze the pictures to understand the book) so it would be a great idea have those present in your classroom. Everyone likes something different!

message 14: by Beth (new)

Beth Wright | 12 comments I found it very difficult to read American Born Chinese since I had trouble concentrating on either the text or the pictures. It was all too much for my eyes to look at and it was difficult to take it all in. Sometimes I would simply look at the pictures to read the story while at other times I would just read the text. But I found that when I slowed down, I was able to take it all in by reading box by box then looking at the picture that was supposed to support the text. I did enjoy a few of the stories in the novel and thought they were really funny. I think graphic novels are great for some readers, but not the ideal type of novel for me.

message 15: by Crystal (new)

Crystal Davis | 8 comments As I said before in class, when I read a novel I completely immerse myself in the story and really connect myself with the main character and I just cannot do that with these graphic novels. I feel like an outsider looking in on someone else's story. With that being said, like some others have mentioned I really had a hard time concentrating on the pictures and the words. I pretty much agree with absolutely everything Madison said… I just wanted to read the words and skip the pictures, or look at the pictures and not read the captions. I had to make a conscious effort to make myself absorb them together, and it was way more difficult that I expected. I could count the number of comic books I have read on one hand, and perhaps my lack of experience with this type of text was part of the problem. I enjoyed the message and storyline it conveyed, I just did not enjoy the way it was convey… Although I can see how this would be great for some kids, graphic novels are definitely not my thing.

message 16: by Patricia (new)

Patricia | 15 comments I am not a big fan of graphic novels so I was not excited about reading American Born Chinese and I was not expecting to like it. However, I ended up enjoying it so much more than I expected! This book was easier to read than other graphic novels I have seen, but I remember a few times when I was unsure of the order to read the text bubbles. I found the pictures helpful because I felt that I was seeing exactly what the author wanted me to see; I never felt that I was constructing an incorrect image in my head. I also felt that there were some scenes I would have had difficulty picturing on my own, such as the monkey king or the dinner party he tried to attend. I also liked how the book ended. In the beginning, I thought there were three separate stories and I was confused as to how they related. In the end, though, all of the stories come together, and I was impressed with Gene Luen Yang's creativity in doing that. Overall, American Born Chinese exceeded my expectations

message 17: by Lizzy (new)

Lizzy | 10 comments In the beginning, I found American Born Chinese difficult to read because I was getting frustrated by how long it was taking me to focus in on the text due to all the images. As I read on, I began to like it and get used to the way it was set up. I really found it hilarious, specifically the drawings. I really enjoyed the side comments on the pictures and the fine details ... for example, text written on the characters' shirts. I also really enjoyed some real life jokes thrown in... for example, the teacher mispronouncing his name. I thought that through humor and exciting pictures[ that were not always realistic, but definitely entertaining:], this book was able to create a wonderful theme of appreciating who you are and where you come from. I think both children and adults would love this book.

message 18: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Barto | 7 comments Coming into reading American Born Chinese, I was not excited. I had not enjoyed graphic novels AT ALL in the past and did not think I would like this either. At first, it went with what I had expected: weird comics. The craziness of the monkey etc. was not that enjoyable to me. But, as I read on I realized it wasn't that different from other books in terms of content. The story was interesting, entertaining, and funny. However, when I read I like to move quickly and take in the story as fast as possible. With all of the pictures slowing me down, I felt frustrated and pressured while reading. I enjoyed the pictures but personally I would prefer one picture per page rather than a graphic novel set up exactly.

message 19: by Caley (new)

Caley Booth | 7 comments I thought I would enjoy reading American Born Chinese, as I am always attracted to the gossip magazines with only pictures and a few words. To this day, I make my mom buy me an Archie comic book every time she goes to the grocery store. So, I bought this graphic novel new, thinking I would enjoy it just as much. However, the Monkey Kingdom mixed in with the Jin's every day high school problems really just reminded me of a bad cartoon network episode. I'm sure there's something to be said about the heirarchy of the King Monkey's power juxtaposed with Jin's struggle to fit in, but the graphics were so distracting for me i found myself giving up and putting the book away several times. i think it's a book that you need to sit down and read all at once, that way- when the book ends and the stories tie together the reader has a more "ahaaa" moment rather than just an "okay thank god this is over" moment.
Distracting pages i hated: 82 and 83 , 150-159 ... okay well just about anything with fighting monkeys.
i'll stick to archie, betty, and veronica i suppose...

message 20: by Janey (new)

Janey Elmore | 15 comments One thing I love about this book is the interconnected three stories. They kept me entertained and turning each page (especially Chin-Kee who I found to be hilarious! even though some may find to be offensive). It reminded me of a sitcom on television that tells several different stories about the characters during one episode. I liked also that the central theme is just accept who you are. This idea could not be more applicable for middle schoolers.

I had never read a graphic novel before, and I read it in a much different way than I do when I read only text. I was able to jump to the pictures in mid sentence and then go back to the sentence and do so effortlessly. Whereas, when I read a book with only text I have to focus on each sentence, and if I am interrupted then I have to start back from the beginning. So I would say the pictures were a distraction but a helpful one. I created a better picture of what was going on in the story by seeing characters' facial expressions or actions while I was reading what they were saying.

This book may not be for all, though. I can easily understand that some prefer to picture the characters and actions in their own mind instead of seeing those details in front of them on the page. Therefore, I think it is a teacher's call if he or she wants to do this book as a whole class read or let the kids choose it on their own. Personally, because it reads pretty quickly, I would have us as a class read it (if there were funds for the whole class to have their own copy), or have the kids form lit groups and each group take different turns reading the book. I think it would be good for all kids to be exposed to graphic novels. Who knows, it could be just the right kind of different to spark a child's apathy about reading into interest!

message 21: by Julie (new)

Julie (juliejustice) | 5 comments Mod
I've loved loved loved reading this thread. I appreciate how insightful and thoughtful you all were about your comments...

I thought it was interesting that so many of you had a hard time reading the whole thing... because while I have always had a hard time starting graphic novels, I'm ok with them once I get about half way through. I guess that's about how long it takes my eyes and brain to adjust to the process.

I found the over-the-top racism and bullying much more difficult to deal with than the format of the book. I think in this case the format of the graphic novel exists almost like poetry does, in that it forces the author (or allows the author, I suppose) to distill big themes and ideas into very concentrated doses of text + pictures. So the racism and bullying that you might come in contact with over the course of a long and luxurious novel is super dense and concentrated in American Born Chinese. It's almost like I want to dissolve it in water and sip it rather than taking it in all at once.

message 22: by Diana (new)

Diana | 7 comments I really liked American Born Chinese and I'm not really sure why.. graphic novels have never really appealed to me so like almost everyone I was not happy about it before class that day. However, after reading it a few minutes I really enjoyed it. I didn't find it too difficult to read and I went through it pretty quickly. I think that having the pictures there so that you don't see the picture in your head enables you to experience the book a certain way. Although it MAY stifle creativity a little because you can't make your own pictures, it's easy to get the message the pictures portray.

Not to sound like a nerd or anything but my sister is in 8th grade so unfortunately for her I've been coming how with books as presents instead of the usual toys/magazines/clothes that I spoil her with. In order to make her agree to read American Born Chinese I had to read it to her. I think this was a neat experience because for her to hear it (and I had GREAT voices for all the different characters) and see the pictures she REALLY enjoyed it. She would get sad and quiet when the racism was brought up in the text and when there was that twist in the end that showed how the three stories came together it really clicked for her. It also opened up conversation about racism and bullying.

message 23: by Amber (new)

Amber Hicks | 4 comments I have never had any desire to read graphic novels because I never enjoyed comics. I really didn't want to read this one either. As I went into reading this book I had the attitude of "okay lets get this over with". I actually ended up enjoying the book. It was funny and I enjoyed how the author brought the three stories together in the end. I didn't really notice reading the text along with the pictures once I got used to it. It was more entertaining than I was expecting, however, I still would rather read a text only novel.

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