Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. First Second. 2006. ISBN 1596431520
Reader’s Annotation: Three separate stories about a Chinese-American student, the Monkey King and Chin-Kee, Danny’s embarrassing cousin from China who visits annually all come together in the end unexpectedly.
Plot Summary: At first the three story lines seem so separate. The first follows Jin Wang who moves to a town where he is the only Chinese-American student in his class and has to deal with the stereotypes and bullying from his fellow students. The second story is about the legendary Monkey King who is snubbed because he is a monkey and his efforts to show his superiority to everyone else. The third story follows Danny who has to endure the annual visit of his cousin Chin-Kee who embodies every negative Chinese stereotype possible.
This was an amusing read though be forewarned that there are several moments where you will cringe at the horrible stereotypes portrayed. The stories do move along quickly and I did thoroughly enjoy it. As the three stories come together in a surprising way the moral is that you should be comfortable with who you are despite what others may say. When you start trying to change yourself to fit in that is when things start going wrong and it is hard to find true happiness.
I would have liked to see a little bit more of the Monkey King’s story. His turn of heart seemed to come very suddenly and I wanted to see what happened after he became a disciple. His part in the story seemed a little random to me but still I am glad that I read this book.
About the author
Gene Yang has won multiple awards for his graphic novels and comics. His father emigrated from Taiwan and his mother from Hong Kong and strongly instilled a sense of their Asian culture in him. He started off as a computer engineer but in 1996 he began to self-publish his own comics.
Yang published American Born Chinese in 2006 which became the first graphic novel to be chosen as a finalist for the National Book Award and was also the first graphic novel to win the Michael L. Printz Award in 2007.
Book talking idea
Embrace who you are and your differences.
Monkey King’s journey to impress those around him.
Ages 12 and up.
Ethnic stereotypes, mild sexual references
I would have the library’s collection management policy on hand and explain that the library is not here to filter what patrons read. If questioned about this policy I would direct the patron to the ALA Bill of Rights. This book has received several highly rated reviews from notable sources such as School Library Journal and Booklist so I would have those reviews on hand.
Why did I include this book?
After hearing about it during the genre presentations it piqued my curiosity so I had to check it out and thought it would be a great addition.