Saturday, May 8, 2010

Book Review - American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Title: American Born Chinese
Author: Gene Luen Yang  
Year: 2008
Page: 240    
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult  

New to me author? Yes
Read this author again? Possibly 

Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? US
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
As alienated kids go, Jin Wang is fairly run-of-the-mill: he eats lunch by himself in a corner of the schoolyard, gets picked on by bullies and jocks and develops a sweat-inducing crush on a pretty classmate. And, oh, yes, his parents are from Taiwan. This much-anticipated, affecting story about growing up different is more than just the story of a Chinese-American childhood; it's a fable for every kid born into a body and a life they wished they could escape. The fable is filtered through some very specific cultural icons: the much-beloved Monkey King, a figure familiar to Chinese kids the world over, and a buck-toothed amalgamation of racist stereotypes named Chin-Kee. Jin's hopes and humiliations might be mirrored in Chin-Kee's destructive glee or the Monkey King's struggle to come to terms with himself, but each character's expressions and actions are always perfectly familiar. True to its origin as a Web comic, this story's clear, concise lines and expert coloring are deceptively simple yet expressive. Even when Yang slips in an occasional Chinese ideogram or myth, the sentiments he's depicting need no translation. Yang accomplishes the remarkable feat of practicing what he preaches with this book: accept who you are and you'll already have reached out to others.

Why did I pick this book?
Heard about this from Bibliofreakblog. Since I am Asian, I am interested in reading books on Asian-American. I wasn't born here though, so I am not quite an ABC (American Born Chinese), but still.

My thoughts:
  • This is aimed for young adults, and I thought it was done quite well. I think I probably would have enjoyed it more had I read it as a young adult, when I was still searching for my identity (my family moved to Australia when I was a teenager), whereas now I think I've figured out who I am... so the message isn't quite as powerful to me
  • There were 3 stories intertwining in the book - I was a bit bored at first by the opening story which involved the Magic Monkey (a famous Chinese fable), but in the end I could see why it was included. I also felt that for those who have some Chinese background would appreciate the story more - apart from Magic Monkey, there were a few other Chinese sayings in the book that just seems to make more sense if you know about them -- while this book can be enjoyed by anybody, but it probably would be appreciated by ABC more (or people like me who grew up in a different culture). I could relate to the characters
  • While I like Shaun Tan's drawings better, I think the author's style fit well with this story. 
    Rating:    3.5 Stars

    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

    100+ Reading
    Young Adult


    1. oh, I have this one on my wishlist. I think I would really enjoy this one. Great review.

    2. @Jennifer - Thanks! this was a quick read. So even if you don't like it, it doesn't take up a lot of time :)