"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."

Borges

Sunday, January 07, 2007

American Born Chinese


American Born Chinese
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Publisher: First Second
ISBN: 1596431520

Graphic Novelist Gene Yang’s masterful blending of the three stories in this book was intelligent and emotional. There’s the legend of the Monkey King who wants to be revered as a god be worshipped above all others, a Caucasian teenaged boy named Danny who is ashamed of his Chinese cousin who seems to be one big jumbled up mess of painful stereotypes, and the story of Jin, a lonely Chinese-American boy who sits alone at lunch and feels left out and misunderstood. Each story is so skillfully woven into the others and it is completely compelling and absorbing.

Each story in American Born Chinese is filled with humor, life, wit and pathos. It’s very affecting. Jin’s struggles with alienation, race and identity are struggles that everyone goes through, in particular children of other cultures. We all feel the need to fit in and each of us has given up some small bit in order to do so. I think that’s what makes this book so fascinating. It tells the story of a young boy struggling with trying to fit in, fighting who he really is while trying to find out who he really is and ultimately finding self-acceptance.

I loved that the classic Chinese tale of the Monkey King is one of the stories that is woven into the others. It ties legend and myth to real life and it really worked with the other more contemporary plotlines.

The artwork is beautiful as well. Each illustration shows depth, color and emotion. The colors are warm and add dimension to the story.

About the Author:
Gene Yang began drawing comic books in the fifth grade. In 1997, he received the Xeric Grant, a prestigious comics industry grant, for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, his first comics work as an adult. He has since written and drawn a number of titles, including Duncan’s Kingdom (with art by Derek Kirk Kim) and The Rosary Comic Book.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and son.

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