Saturday, March 20, 2010


American-Born Chinese

by Gene Luen Yang

This teen graphic novel was recommended to me by a bookstore clerk, who saw that I had picked it up and told me it was good stuff. He wasn't wrong.

The book features three stories that seem separate, yet address the same theme of fitting in and knowing who you are. The first story is from the Chinese legends of the Monkey King, the second is about a young boy who is growing up as a Chinese-American, and the third is about a white American boy whose annoying, over-the-top stereotype of a Chinese cousin is visiting and ruining his life at school.

The blend of fantasy and reality here works well, though it did have me for a while wondering why we had these three separate stories and where we were going. It resolves nicely, though, and at the end, the three stories suddenly entwine in an interesting and unforeseen way to drive the point home, without becoming all message-y.

Being a graphic, this is a quick read, and it's fun, but it's a solid book, too, with things to say about racism, accepting yourself, and growing up. While it's about a boy from Chinese heritage, it's applicable to a huge number of kids growing up in North America right now from different places, and I bet a lot of them would identify with parts of it. To me, that makes it a great thing to have on the shelf, so people get a better sense of what they or someone else might be facing.

and of course you can't talk graphic novel without talking about the drawing style. it's cartoon-y, of course, but a more conventionally western style of comics, not manga-style. it's got bold lines, yet manages a good amount of detail. To be honest, while I'm not a big graphic novel reader, I really liked the look and the way this novel worked.
-loved the style

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