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American Born Chinese (2006)

by Gene Luen Yang

Other authors: Lark Pien (Colorist)

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4,9513392,122 (3.95)184
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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English (339)  French (1)  Japanese (1)  All languages (341)
Showing 1-5 of 339 (next | show all)
A good fun but touching story of an American boy born of Chinese immigrant parents. The book weaves three narratives together (the main story; a fake sitcom based around Chinese stereotypes; and a retelling of the legends of the Monkey King). These are pulled together at the end very neatly - in fact, a little too neatly. For me it worked just fine as disjointed stories exploring the same themes; tying them together seemed to be turning them into a cudgel with which to beat the reader. That's a bit harsh, but nonetheless it's cost the book a star!

Well, okay, I'd rate it 3.5 really - but I still think it's well worth a read. ( )
  thisisstephenbetts | Nov 25, 2023 |
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel about the experience of Asian Americans trying to come to terms with their heritage in mainstream American society. It was published in 2006, so it’s a few years short of its much-deserved twentieth anniversary –- it’s still in print. It’s even inspired a series on Disney+ which has many of the same actors from Everything Everywhere All at Once, the much-acclaimed multiverse movie released in 2021.

Despite the simplicity of its artwork, the novel is rich and complex. It intertwines three different stories: the realistic everyday one of Jin Wang, a teenage boy born in the US to Chinese-born parents who moves to a new area – and school — where he finds himself a Asian; the Chinese folk tale of Monkey, whose ambitions, and his achievement of them, don’t negate the fact he remains a monkey in a world of human gods; and Chin-Kee, a sort of cartoon superhero who takes the form of a stereotypical Chinese, buck teeth, yellow skin and everything, whose superhero is disturbing gringos. In a sort of magic realism, Chin-Kee is the cousin of Danny, a typical American white boy, and causes him much embarrassment at school. And yes, the Chin-Kee pun is deliberate by the author.

I’ve pretty much defined the whole tale in the above description. Jin’s attempts to fit in include having a crush on a white girl (who crushes on him back), perming his hair to resemble that of a white classmate, and betraying a loyal friend, a fellow Asian boy, badly. These are all efforts by him to refute his real self. At the same time in the folklore world, Monkey takes on feat after feat, only to be told by the Supreme God himself he can’t become what he isn’t – a flea-bit, hairy monkey – and buried beneath a mountain until he learns humility by helping a holy man on his journey to the west.

Gene Luen Yang, Illustration for American Born Chinese

When Jin is informed by the white jock he admires that he is not to date his white girl crush anymore, his anger is so grow he transforms into… Danny, the white boy so haunted by the antics of Chin-Kee. This leads to a climactic showdown where the loose ends are tied up in mythic fashion.

I loved this story, even though the characters are foreign to me (I’m adult, white, and female.) It was perhaps a bit too obscure in places. The finale left me scratching my head, though that may be because I was so engrossed I rushed through it. But in the end, it is clear Jin has reconciled with who he was and who he is, and receives a hint of who he may be.

A five star read and recommended. ( )
  Cobalt-Jade | Nov 22, 2023 |
7/10 ( )
  Law_Books600 | Nov 3, 2023 |
This is one of those books that I really wish I liked more – the flow/pace of the story and the graphics, but I can deal with the latter.

In this book, three stories are presented. As expected, their connection/reveal is presented at the end.

First story: The famous Monkey King who mastered all heavenly disciplines. He is nonetheless dismissed as a god because he is still a monkey. Same as the original story, he is punished under the weight of a mountain until the monk Wong Lai-Tsao comes to free him by freeing his mind.

Second story: Jin Wan is the key character who moved from Chinatown to a predominantly white suburb of San Francisco, where he struggles to fit in at his new school, facing stereotypes. He later befriends the one other new Chinese kid who enters the school, Wei Chen.

Third story: Danny, a blond white boy, has an obnoxious Chinese cousin, Chin-kee, who visits him yearly. Chin-kee is the embodiment of multiple negative stereotype Americans have about the Chinese.

The twist and the reveal happen abruptly and quickly, hugs all around, and all is forgiven. I enjoyed the reveal, but I thought the book missed opportunities. The book isn’t written for adults (at least not to my viewpoint). A few more panels to address/summarize the key themes about identity, acceptance, racial stereotypes, and racial discriminations could have filled the gap for the younger readers. It is a coming-of-age story that could have bridged a bigger age group and be appreciated by the parents.

Full Disclosure: I read the book after the Disney series of the same name. That series is actually worse than this graphic novel. Fail. ( )
1 vote varwenea | Aug 24, 2023 |
I get the moral of the story, and I liked most of the journey of the story. However, I felt like the end was very rushed, like the author just wanted to be done with it and so left out a lot of the build-up that would have made it all make sense. To sum it up in a word: anticlimactic. ( )
  blueskygreentrees | Jul 30, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 339 (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 editionscalculated
Pien, LarkColoristsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed



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Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
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
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

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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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.
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