Saturday, December 6, 2008

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

abcbigAmerican Born Chinese has been on my wishlist ever since reading Dewey's review of it awhile back. I know for a fact that this would've been one of Dewey's favorite books that she read this year because in May it was her favorite book so far. And I can see why. The graphic novel format was a wonderful way of portraying this story of trying to fit into America as an Asian-American. The book follows three seperate story lines that all have a common theme - feeling uncomfortable with what we are, trying to be something we are not because we feel less than adequate. Specifically, this book looks at the life of an Asian-American boy named Jin, originally born in China. The first thread that we follow is that of the legendary Monkey. Monkey is king of flower mountain, but that is not enough for him. He wants to be a true deity and not just a monkey, so he follows learns as many disciplines as he can to surpass the life of just a monkey. But will that have it's own consequences. In becoming something he is not, he loses his way. We then jump to the main story line, that of Jin, a young boy who arrives at a new American school after coming to the USA from China. He doesn't fit in with all of the other white faces and pop culture around him and he's made fun of instantly. When another young man from Taiwan arrives at school as an exchange student, Jin at first shies away from him. He doesn't want to be seen around other Asian people, but he soon finds similarities to himself in him and they become friends. But Jin is still somewhat embarassed of his friends Asian ways. The third story line portrays a sitcom featuring a cousin from China who comes to visit his American cousin. The Chinese cousin is a parody of every racist joke ever made towards the Chinese...he has buck teeth, slanted eyes, mixes up his r's and l's, eats cats, and does kung fu. He even does a little William Hung Karaoke. All three story lines merge eventually, bringing together the common theme of being an outsider, but needing to accept who you are. The story is told wonderfully through the graphic novel form. I loved the illustrations in their simplicity and thought that they worked perfect for this story. It's a book that's quite humorous while taking itself seriously and is not afraid to poke fun at itself. But beneath the laughter lies a situation that I'm sure millions have had to address, whatever nationality they are. This graphic novel was awarded the 2006 Printz Award for Excellence in a Young Adult Book.

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