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American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

American Born Chinese (2006)

by Gene Luen Yang

Other authors: Lark Pien (Colorist)

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2,8092152,076 (4)138

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English (215)  Japanese (1)  French (1)  All languages (217)
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“Three very different characters. One simple goal: to fit in.” Jin moves with his family and attends a new middle school where he’s the only Chinese-American student. He makes a few friends along the way, but just wants to be the All-American boy so he can date his dream girl. Danny is the All-American boy who struggles to fit in once his overly-stereotyped Chinese cousin, Chin-kee, comes to visit. The Monkey King has worked hard to master the art of kung fu, only to be laughed out of a party by all the other gods because he’s a monkey. Each character must find a way to work with the others to fix what their lives have become.

I was very impressed with Boxers & Saints, so when I saw American Born Chinese at a used bookstore (last night) for only $5.00, I couldn’t pass it up! In fact, it’s been on my wish list before I even knew Boxers & Saints existed. I flew through this book because Yang’s writing style is so witty and easy to understand. His illustrations are wonderful too. At first I didn’t understand how these three, very different, characters could be at all related, but by the end it became clear, along with Yang’s main message of the book: be yourself.

This is definitely a subject many teens struggle with, whether they’re new to the country or not, and I imagine that many adults also have an issue staying true to who they are. It can be difficult to just be yourself in the face of adversity, especially in Jin’s case, where his classmates are constantly picking on him for being foreign. Even when Jin tried to become more “American” it didn’t stop the teasing because he was a poor imitation and of course was much more natural just being himself.

I also enjoyed the tale of the Monkey King – it had a mythological, fairy tale feel and Yang’s illustrations of the different deities were a pleasure to look at. I was a little confused about how all three characters tied together and though Yang explained it, I was still left with a little “huh?” at the end. But that didn’t really detract from the story (or three stories) or the overall message.


I really enjoyed this book. Anyone who likes graphic novels, especially young adult ones, or those who have read Boxers & Saints, should check out American Born Chinese. For such a short book, it’s well worth your time! ( )
  MillieHennessy | Oct 12, 2014 |
As Jefferson is studying Chinese, I keep an eye out for books with Chinese characters, stories, and traditions that are appropriate for his age level and go beyond Orientalist stereotypes. Given my love of graphic novels, I bought this as soon as I knew about it. I read it mostly just to determine at what age I should shift it from my bookshelves to his, but I found it very enjoyable myself. I think it will be quite a few years before I shift it, however, not because anything in the book is inappropriate, but I think he will relate to it better in middle school or so.

There are three main storylines, woven together in such a way that the relationships between them aren't obvious until a reveal near the end. Two of the stories are "realistic," and the third, a legend of The Monkey King, is fantastic. Ultimately, it is all about identity, and being who you are.

Lovely, I think, even if you aren't interested in Chinese culture in particular. ( )
  greeniezona | Sep 20, 2014 |
Prerequisite reading would be "The Journey To The West/Monkey" by Wu Ch'Eng-En. ( )
  kchung_kaching | Sep 1, 2014 |

"American Born Chinese" is Gene Luen Yang's multiple-award-winning comic book, featuring three seemingly unrelated stories. The first tale is a well-known Chinese fable about the Monkey King, who is the master of kung-fu and the ruler of the monkey kingdom, Flower-Fruit Mountain. There is only one thing the Monkey King is unhappy about: he doesn’t want to be a monkey. The second story is centered around Jin Wang, American born Chinese, who transferred to a new school, where he is one of the very few Asian students and because of that has a hard time fitting in. The last storyline follows Danny, a popular white teenager, who is frequently forced to switch schools to escape humiliation after annual visits of his cousin Chin-Kee, the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype. Towards the end of the book an unexpected twist reveals that the three tales are, in fact, one great story of self-acceptance.


The plot of “American Born Chinese” is packed with action, and the scenes are hilarious to the point of shameless racism. This book draws you in from the very first pages… but so does the majority of the better comic books, right? Halfway through the book I caught myself doubting whether there was some deeper meaning at all and I was still looking for the signs of exceptionality. But when the climax came, I was blown away. Wow..! The message is so simple yet so universally powerful…

VERDICT: “American Born Chinese” is un ultimate entertainment: fast-paced, hilarious and enlightening. ( )
1 vote AgneJakubauskaite | Aug 24, 2014 |
Plot: 3 1/2 stars
Characters: 3 1/2 stars
Style: 4 stars
Pace: 4 stars

So my sister's taking a multicultural lit class, essentially, this quarter. She wanted a second opinion on this one, and it'd been a long while since I read any graphic novels, I told her I'd take a look. I was familiar with the basics of the Monkey tale from my undergrad world lit class, but that was *muttersmuttersoverhalfadecadeago* erm. a while back. ;) It was interesting to see the threads tie together, though, even as the story was a bit simplistic. Still, a good, quick read, brings up discussions about what really makes your identity, and how the outside and inside never really match. ( )
  Jami_Leigh | Jun 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 215 (next | show all)

School Library Journal Review
Starred Review. Gr 7 Up Graphic novels that focus on nonwhite characters are exceedingly rare in American comics. Enter American Born Chinese, a well-crafted work that aptly explores issues of self-image, cultural identity, transformation, and self-acceptance. In a series of three linked tales, the central characters are introduced: Jin Wang, a teen who meets with ridicule and social isolation when his family moves from San Francisco s Chinatown to an exclusively white suburb; Danny, a popular blond, blue-eyed high school jock whose social status is jeopardized when his goofy, embarrassing Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, enrolls at his high school; and the Monkey King who, unsatisfied with his current sovereign, desperately longs to be elevated to the status of a god. Their stories converge into a satisfying coming-of-age novel that aptly blends traditional Chinese fables and legends with bathroom humor, action figures, and playground politics. Yang s crisp line drawings, linear panel arrangement, and muted colors provide a strong visual complement to the textual narrative. Like Toni Morrison s The Bluest Eye and Laurence Yep s Dragonwings, this novel explores the impact of the American dream on those outside the dominant culture in a finely wrought story that is an effective combination of humor and drama. Philip Charles Crawford, Essex High School, Essex Junction, VT Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. From: Reed Elsevier Inc. Copyright Reed Business Information

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gene Luen Yangprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pien, LarkColoristsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Original title
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Important places
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Awards and honors
To Ma,
for her stories of the Monkey King

And Ba,
for his stories of Ah-Tong, the Taiwanese village boy
First words
One bright and starry night, the Gods the Goddesses, the demons, and the spirits gathered in heaven for a dinner party.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
A great mix of mythology and the second generation immigrant experience told with wit, insight and humour. The graphic novel format is spot-on for this book. The illustrations contribute powerfully to the text.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312384483, Paperback)

Indie graphic novelist Gene Yang's intelligent and emotionally challenging American Born Chinese is made up of three individual plotlines: the determined efforts of the Chinese folk hero Monkey King to shed his humble roots and be revered as a god; the struggles faced by Jin Wang, a lonely Asian American middle school student who would do anything to fit in with his white classmates; and the sitcom plight of Danny, an All-American teen so shamed by his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee (a purposefully painful ethnic stereotype) that he is forced to change schools. Each story works well on its own, but Yang engineers a clever convergence of these parallel tales into a powerful climax that destroys the hateful stereotype of Chin-Kee, while leaving both Jin Wang and the Monkey King satisfied and happy to be who they are.

Yang skillfully weaves these affecting, often humorous stories together to create a masterful commentary about race, identity, and self-acceptance that has earned him a spot as a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People. The artwork, rendered in a chromatically cool palette, is crisp and clear, with clean white space around center panels that sharply focuses the reader's attention in on Yang's achingly familiar characters. There isn't an adolescent alive who won't be able to relate to Jin's wish to be someone other than who he is, and his gradual realization that there is no better feeling than being comfortable in your own skin.--Jennifer Hubert

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:41 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Alternates three interrelated stories about the problems of young Chinese Americans trying to participate in the popular culture. Presented in comic book format.

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