A tour-de-force by rising indy comics star Gene Yang, American Born Chinese tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny’s life with his yearly visits. Their lives and stories come together with an unexpected twist in this action-packed modern fable. American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax.
This is the first graphic novel I have ever read. For a while, I had the misconception that graphic novels were books a little on the explicit side. Thankfully, I have children not afraid to explore every bookshelf in the library! This book was a required read for my YA Lit class, and I’m glad it was, or I might never have read it. I found it to be a fun and fast read. I liked the storyboard concept, and how one picture conveyed many details. The colors and illustrations were beautiful, and I found myself appreciating the book not only for the story, but for the artwork as well.
This was a sweet coming of age story. Although the book includes three stories, I think they all help to illustrate the main story of Jin Wang. Jin is American born Chinese, who seemingly wants one thing: to fit in. I thought it was cute how the book shows at what lengths Jin tries to fit in: playing with American toys, getting a perm, and wanting to be one of the ‘cool’ kids.
While I was a bit confused by the three stories at first, I loved how they all came together. These parallel stories teach the reader about becoming someone you’re not meant to be, finding your true identity, and appreciating being different. I liked how all three stories came together in the end to help Jin learn that the most important thing is to be yourself.
American Born Chinese is a 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.