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American Born Chinese Paperback – September 5, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 315 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Author

I started American Born Chinese about five years into my comics career. (Though at the time, it was really more of a vocation since I wasn't making any money at it.) Up 'til then, I'd done a couple of stories with Asian-American protagonists, but I never dealt with the Asian-American experience head-on. Since my own ethnic heritage is such an important part of how I understand myself, I knew I wanted to. I came up with three ideas and couldn't decide which one was the best. American Born Chinese is me doing all three at once. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: 7 - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 530L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 233 pages
  • Publisher: First Second; First Edition edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596431520
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596431522
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (315 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
I've made it my personal quest to find a children's graphic novel that can prove to naysayers anywhere the literary possibilities of the genre. When, "American Born Chinese", was placed merrily into my hands, however, I fairly ignorant of its potential. The name Gene Luen Yang didn't mean anything to me. The style was not one that immediately leapt out at me. But I'm a sucker for a good graphic novel and this book had something going for it: The Monkey King. I love love love any stories, legends, picture books, what have you, that contain that most legendary of all gods and goddesses, the king of the monkeys himself. Lured in by the promise of some serious fantasy (as, I am sure, many kids who pick up this book will as well) I found a story about assimilation that is so brilliantly penned and carefully plotted that it rivals every notion of what a graphic novel can and can't do. Do you know someone who couldn't care less about this new format? Someone who thinks comic books can't convey the weight and intelligence of a proper novel? Thrust "American Born Chinese" into their arms immediately, if not sooner. If I were to choose a single graphic novel to grace every library's children's room nationwide, you can bet that this is the puppy I'd put my faith in.

Three storylines. Three different characters. One single idea. At the heart of our first story is Jin Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants, who just wants to fit in. He wants to date the cute blond girl in the overalls and to perm his hair. What he wants, and how far he's willing to go to get it, is the center of the story itself. The second storyline concerns the tales of the Monkey King. Not content to be merely a monkey, the Monkey King did everything in his power to become a Great Sage, Equal of Heaven.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a truly stellar contribution to the graphic novel genre. Jin Wang's coming-of-age story is pitch-perfect in its attention to visual detail as well as its "feel" for adolescent dialogue. Not content to tell this story "straight," Gene Yang introduces two other narratives -- those of the legendary Monkey King and of the sitcom characters Danny and Chin-Kee -- to add multiple layers of meaning to Jin's struggles to fit in.

It shoud be noted that, even though Yang balances three stories (which ultimately converge) in this book, Jin's story serves as the emotional core of the novel. The Monkey King's and Chin-Kee's stories represent different poles of Jin's identity as a Chinese American -- extreme, identity-negating self-reliance, on the one hand, and extreme, caricatured self-hatred, on the other. The novel does a brilliant job of drawing us into the world of a teenager who engages these extremes as a matter of "growing up Asian American" -- a paradoxical subject of repulsion and desire, exclusion and belonging.

Don't get me wrong, though: while Yang's themes are undeniably powerful, his writing is just really, really funny. The Monkey King is raucously self-involved; Chin-Kee is both sad and strangely self-aware of his own caricaturedness (i.e., his "kung fu" moves are all named after "Chinese" dishes, like "Mooshu Fist"), and one scene involving Jin, bathroom soap, and his love interest Amelia had me in stitches. Which is to say it's nice to see that important themes of identity and cultural belonging can be explored in such a playful manner.

Credit to Yang, then, for not taking himself so seriously, and for giving us a profound meditation on "growing up ethnic" that looks, sounds, and *feels* right.
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Format: Paperback
This beautifully produced graphic novel contains three storylines which come together in a well-constructed final chapter. The first storyline concerns the classic Chinese tale of the Monkey King (Sun Wukong) and his egotistical quest to become a god above all others. The second storyline is a about a Taiwanese-American kid raised in San Francisco's Chinatown who moves with his family to the suburbs. There he tries to fit in at his new elementary school, and goes through the usual loneliness of the outsider, endures bullying, makes friends with the other two Asian kids, and falls in love with a pretty white girl. The third storyline is delivered as a tasteless sitcom about an all-American high-school boy whose life gets turned upside down when his bucktoothed stereotype of a Chinese cousin comes to visit. Although the tone is very different in each storyline, they all have something to say about being different and coming to terms with one's identity, and the way they morph into a single climax at the end is quite clever and effective. It's a nice book to give any kid who's struggling with trying to find their place in the nasty world. The artwork is very clean and simple, with traditional lettering, crisp colors, and very simple paneling (which is nicely framed by generous white space above and below). The printing is beautiful and the paper and binding is top-notch.
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Format: Paperback
American Born Chinese by Gene Yang was the Printz Award winner for 2007. It's been sitting in my pile for a few months now, even though I was told it would take me no more than an hour to read. All the reviews I read about this graphic novel have been very positive, and I must agree it is a masterpiece.

But, as usual, I have a different viewpoint to bring to this discussion. We all have filters we view the world through, and this is also true of the way we approach media, whether it be books, movies, poetry, etc. My Christian faith is a large filter for me, and it impacts the way I view books.

American Born Chinese is a story told in three separate stories that eventually converge. Remember Holes? Louis Sachar did the same thing. The three plotlines came together in surprising ways that add to the enjoyment of the story. It is part of the mystery of the book.

In plotline one, Jin Wang has started a new life in a new home and a new school. He struggles to fit in with his new classmates who only see his differences. His classmates focus only on the negative stereotypes they have heard about the Chinese people. He is mocked and picked on, and the only friend he can find is a bully who threatens to make Jin eat his boogers if he won't share his food. I found myself cringing a little as I remembered a classmate that was in my elementary school. His name was Nguyen Ly, but later on he changed his name to an American name. Now I understand why he wanted to do that. It is hard to be different. One more important aspect to this story is that Jin loves his transformer robot. One day, he wants to be a transformer himself.

In plot two, the King of the Monkeys is angered when he is turned away at a party for being a monkey.
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