[Review] American Born Chinese - Gene Luen-Yang

Title: American Born Chinese
Writer: Gene Luen-Yang
Publisher: First Second
Publication year: 2006
Language: English
Pages: 240

American Born Chinese is a graphic novel which consists of three stories. The first one being a story about Jin Wang, a Chinese boy who has just moved into a new school. Most of his classmates are stereotyping him, and he has a hard time fitting in. He doesn’t feel comfortable in his own skin, and he ends up alienating one friend that he truly has. The second story is about the Chinese legend the Monkey King. The last story is about Chin-Kee, a Chinese who comes to America to visit his cousin Danny. Chin-Kee is the embodiment of negative Chinese stereotype. Danny is one of the popular kids at school but every time Chin-Kee comes to visit, he has to transfer to another school to avoid the shame.

Those three stories don’t seem connected at all, although they actually are. Especially the Money King legend which feels out of place compared to the other stories. However, there’s a twist in the end that will explain how these three stories intertwine to each other. 

Even though the three stories appear to be different at a glance, all of them explore the same theme which is self-acceptance and racism. The characters from this graphic novel don’t feel satisfied with their identities. Instead of accepting themselves for who they really are, they keep trying to be someone else. Of course this issue is presented in an easy-to-read way without disparaging it.

The art in this graphic novel is drawn in a simplistic and cartoonish style. I think the art style is cute and since it’s not over-detailed, it didn’t distract me from the message of the stories. In fact, I believe the art style makes the graphic novel more fun and easy to read. I’m looking forward to reading other works from this author.

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