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Saints by Gene Luen Yang
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Good read. Look forward to reading the other half, Boxers. ( )
  fighterofevil | Aug 26, 2014 |
In SAINTS, Four-Girl is the unwanted, unappreciated daughter of a Chinese family. Repeatedly called names and accused of being a devil, she vows to become one, and begins to learn the "foreign devils'" teachings. She learns about Christianity from Dr. Won (while enjoying Mrs. Won's cookies), and is baptized (her new name is Vibiana), to the horror of her own family. She runs away with Father Bey to a larger town, where she helps in an orphanage. She has repeated visions of Joan of Arc and decides that her fate is to become a woman warrior as well, to fight the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, an anti-Western Chinese group to which, she discovers, some of her family belongs. When the Society and the Red Lantern attack Vibiana's village, she is killed.

Like many younger children of Chinese families, especially daughters - at least in literature - Four-Girl is made to feel that she does not really have a place with her own family. Though she finds a place with the Christians, she never seems fully committed to the faith itself, nor does she pay attention to or understand the stories. When confronted by her family member (brother? cousin?) on the other side of the conflict, she is shaken when he uses the phrase "make China whole," which echoes Joan's mission. Is Vibiana on the wrong side of the conflict after all? She does not get a chance to find out.

I am not the most skilled reader of graphic novels - I don't spend as much time "reading" the pictures as I should - and when it came to the fighting at the end, I was unclear about who was who. I also felt that the larger context was missing, or simplified (traditional Chinese vs. Christians). Perhaps BOXERS will provide additional context.

Quotes

"Jesus - he's the acupuncture victim?"
"What...?! ...You mean the man on the cross? Yes." (35)

"I don't need stories right now! You know what I do need? A straight answer!" (155) ( )
  JennyArch | Jun 26, 2014 |
Boxers and Saints, Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel set about the Boxer Rebellion in China told from the perspective of a young man who becomes a rebel leader and a young woman who converts to Christianity and stands against the rebellion. I loved Boxers, but was less enamored with Saints. Boxers felt like a full story, showing the history of foreign colonial contact with the Chinese and fleshing out motivations for its characters. I loved the artwork, especially the Chinese gods that the rebels envisioned themselves transforming into; I also loved the author's decision to depict all foreign speech in meaningless scribble while the Chinese dialogue was written in English. This heightened the reader's identification with the Chinese rebel perspective because like the Chinese villagers, the reader literally has no idea what the foreign missionaries and soldiers are saying and must judge them solely based on their actions.

Saints, which is about 1/3 the size of Boxers, definitely felt like a sidenote. It focuses on a girl who is unwanted, called a devil, vows to be the most devilish devil she can be, and decides that aligning herself with the so-called "foreign devils" by converting to Christianity is the most evil thing she can do. Unlike the main character in Boxers, who rises to the status of prominent rebel leader fairly quickly, she struggles throughout her book to find a purpose and seems like a bystander in her own story. This might have been intentional, as Yang in both books draws attention to the male warrior's fear of contamination by women - whose "Yin" will weaken their fighting spirit - and their attitudes that women can't really contribute in a meaningful way to society. But the female character's general listlessness, combined with the shorter narrative, made this perspective feel like more of an afterthought to the "real" story presented in Boxers. I am posting the combined review on the bookpages for both volumes, because they are intended to be read as a set. ( )
  fannyprice | Jun 15, 2014 |
Boxers & Saints is a set of graphic companion novels. The story centers on the Boxer Rebellion in China, and anti-foreigner and anti-Christian movement from 1898 and 1900. Both books feature the same fantastic art by Yang, backed up with interesting characters and strong storylines. I liked, too, how the author indicated the white foreigner's language in Chinese characters (or what appear to be Chinese characters), so that as English language readers we can share the sense of incomprehension when the foreigners speak.

In Boxers, Little Bao learns martial arts and calls upon the spirits of ancient Chinese gods to give him strength in order to rise up with an army of Boxers to fight off and free China from the foreign devils that oppress the country. As the violence begins to grow and Little Bao is forced to break the moral edicts he vowed to follow, he begins to question whether he is truely following the right path.

In Saints, the main character is a fourth and unwanted child, who does not even have a name. Called Fourth-Child by her family, she eventually finds a name, Vibiana, and a place for herself among the Christian community. As the Boxer rebellion grows, she has to decide whether to hold onto the community that has accepted her or join her countrymen in defending China.

Both storylines present a moral ambiguity to the events, the subtle questioning of what is really the right path and whether China can really be made whole through battle. Both also contain supernatural elements, with the Chinese gods appearing to Little Bao and the spirit of not-yet-sainted Joan of Arc appearing to Vibiana. Both work fairly well as stand alone stories, but reading them together is a much more complete and enjoyable experience. ( )
  andreablythe | May 21, 2014 |
Gene Yuen Lang does a marvelous job of presenting both sides of this conflict, but I found Boxers to be a much stronger work than Saints. I found Bao to be the more developed and complete character, with more time spent on the development of his character and exploration of his actions and motivations. The believability of the characters also extends to many of the secondary protagonists. Perhaps it is simply because Saints is a shorter volume, but I found it to be lacking in character development and storyline compared to Boxers. I found Four-Girl to be much more static and her story less intriguing than Bao's. Together they work well, but I really wish that as much development had occurred with Four-Girl as with Bao, it would have made for a better balance between the works.

Read the rest of my review here: http://thevegbrarian.blogspot.ca/2014/05/boxers-saints-by-gene-luen-yang-book.ht... ( )
  leahdawn | May 13, 2014 |
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Dedicated to the San Jose Chinese Catholic Community
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I am my mother's fourth daughter, born on the fourth day of the fourth month, and the only one of her children to survive past a year.
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Vibiana, an unwanted fourth child, finds her name and identity in Christianity, but with the Boxer Rebellion in full swing and Chinese Christians facing death, she must decide whether her loyalties lie with her religion or her country.

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