Published by First Second on September 5, 2006
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Comics & Graphic Novels
Format: Print, Paperback
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel that tells three separate stories. One story is about Jin Wang, the boy who just wants to fit in. He is the only Chinese American student in his school. Another story tells of the Monkey King from Chinese Fables and his desire to be more than a monkey. The third story introduces a highly negative Chinese stereotype through the character of Chin-Kee. These three stories come together well in this graphic novel.
Awards: Michael L. Printz Award (2007), James Cook Book Award Nominee (2007), Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best Graphic Album - New (2007), National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature (2006), One Book One San Diego for Young Adult (2014)
American Born Chinese is a highly powerful novel for any reader. This book is strong in the method of which it brings such a compelling story. This book tells an amazing set of stories which come together in such a meaningful manner. Yang’s storytelling and art convey the plight that many Chinese Americans (and others like them) face, as well as issues that all teens face. This book speaks to the need for teens to accept their cultural identity. It is strong in the way that it conveys the need to be who you were born to be, not who you think you ought to be. Readers will feel a sense of connection with the characters in this graphic novel.
Finding a weakness for this book is a little difficult. The only thing that comes to mind is the fact that readers may be confused with the book at first. Yang does not make it entirely obvious why he is telling three different stories. It later becomes apparent but at the beginning it can leave readers confused.
This is a graphic novel that needs to be pushed for young adults. Young adults can learn a lot about identity within this quick read format. This book uses the medium of a graphic novel well to engage the reader with the text. Graphic novels have the ability to communicate things through the way they are drawn and this book is no exception. Yang does a fabulous job of communicating the message of this book. Readers will not be disappointed when they finish.
After finishing this book teens should be encouraged to reach out to people who are not like themselves. A librarian or teacher can organize a Human Library. This is a program where a diverse set of individuals can come to talk with teens. For instance, you can have Chinese Americans like Jin Wang. This is a great way for teens to engage with other cultures.
Another activity is to encourage teens to do some research on one of the Chinese gods mentioned in the Monkey King portion of the book. They can find other folktales from this culture to bring to the group to share.
The tale of the Monkey King plays a rather large part of this novel. This resource is retelling of this folktale and would be great for readers to look into.
Shepard, A. (2008). The Monkey King A Superhero Tale of China. Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://www.aaronshep.com/stories/036.html
Gene Luen Yang has written more graphic novels using Chinese culture and history. One of his most famous books is the two book set called Boxers & Saints. This is a great resource for any reader who wants to engage more with Chinese culture and history.
Yang, G. L., & Pien, L. (2013). Boxers & saints. New York: First Second Books.