Graphic Novel: American Born Chinese

by Gene Luen Yang

Color by Lark Pien

Published by :01/First Second, 2006

2010 has been my year to discover graphic novels. Although I’m reading many, I’m averaging one a month that I’ve become enthralled with. American Born Chinese was the one most like a comic book with it’s vivid colored drawings.

What I found unique about this story was it’s weaving together of a traditional Chinese folk tale with modern teenage experiences. The book is organized around three separate stories.

  • The first story is a fairy tale about the Monkey King who rules Flower-Fruit Mountain.
  • The second story is about Jin Wan, a young Chinese American boy who’s goal is to fit in with his Anglo neighbors and classmates. The other boys bully him constantly and he’s alone until another Chinese American boy moves into his area.
  • The third story introduces Chin Kee who is somehow the Chinese cousin of Danny. He follows Danny everywhere with his loud and obnoxious comments.

As each story was introduced I was completely absorbed into the telling and showing of it. They were interwoven with each other. And then the ending pulled all three stories together into a creative solution.

This young adult novel covers issues that plague people who struggle with peer pressure, feelings of social exclusion and self-acceptance. This can include many adults as well as adolescents. These themes are not heavy-handed. They are handled with subtle humor.

As you can tell, I’m a fan of this book. That surprised me. But, life would be dull without nice surprises. This one is a multi-award winning book. That alone should have made me grab it.

I checked my copy out from the public library. Even though our branch is small it has a growing section of graphic novels. I’m going back for more.

American Born Chineseis also available from Amazon.

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9 Responses to Graphic Novel: American Born Chinese

  1. JoAnn says:

    This was the first graphic novel I read and reviewed. Glad you enjoyed it, too! I finally got Persepolis 2 from the library and hope to fit it in this weekend.

  2. I’ve seen this around on reviews. Glad you turned into a fan!

  3. I enjoyed this one too – I loved the way the stories came together. Great review!

  4. Janelle says:

    I just can’t get into graphic novels. I’ve never been much of a comics fan, either, so I suppose that has something to do with it. Perhaps if my kids develop an interest at some point, I’ll have a reason to pick one up.

  5. Belle says:

    This has been on my list for a while now – I keep meaning to place a hold on it at the library. I think I’m going to do this right after typing this comment! I’d already taken it once before, but had to return it before getting a chance to read it.

  6. Staci says:

    I’ve read a multitude of great reviews for this one. I must get my hands on a copy soon!! Awesome review!!

  7. Cerrin says:

    I hope we find some at my library

  8. mark hayes says:

    I’m glad you’ve become a fan of graphic novels! I find many of them very well written and illustrated, and the perfect way to tell certain stories. The medium has become much more sophisticated than when I was reading comics as a kid. I really enjoy the way the visual elements add a whole new dimension to the reading experience.

  9. Thanks to other bloggers like yourself, I found out about this graphic novel and finally borrowed it from the library, read it, and commented on it on my blog. I enjoyed it a lot – the use of the Monkey King classic story to show how a young Chinese American finally comes to accept and like himself. Great review on the book’s themes.

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