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Boxers & Saints Boxed Set by Gene Luen Yang
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Boxers & Saints Boxed Set

by Gene Luen Yang

Other authors: Lark Piem (Colorist)

Series: Boxers & Saints (Box Set)

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1981359,376 (4.25)23
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This two-volume graphic narrative set against the historical events of the Boxer uprising in turn-of-the-century China tells the complementary tales of Little Bao, an adolescent Chinese boy who leads the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist in defense of his homeland against British and European imperialists, and Vibiana, an adolescent Chinese girl who converts to Catholicism in an effort to seek a sense of belonging. Their stories intertwine in plausible and compelling ways that force us to examine the reasons why adolescents—even in the most dire of circumstances—value community and peer support.

Without taking sides, Yang masterfully depicts his protagonists as flawed but sympathetic teens who earnestly attempt to grow, learn, and develop their principles amidst a backdrop of political and religious conflict. Both Little Bao and Vibiana experience mystical encounters with spiritual beings who guide them through their ordeals; the magical realism infuses their stories with metaphysical resonance and calls to mind the ancient Greek epic of the Iliad, during which the gods fought alongside mortals. Joan of Arc appears as Vibiana’s spiritual guide, foreshadowing Vibiana’s sad fate.

In addition to the rich history covered in these two volumes, Yang addresses issues of gender through his depiction of the Red Lanterns (the distaff counterparts of the Society) and Vibiana herself, a strong-willed tragic heroine who stumbles upon her faith almost accidentally but ultimately comes to value it over all else.

I highly recommend these narratives for their engaging depictions of complex adolescent protagonists as well as their value as historical texts that tell a story unfamiliar to most Western teens. ( )
  jimrgill | Dec 19, 2015 |
A wonderful, insightful, and thought provoking series about the Boxer rebellion in China. There are so many layers of meaning in these two books. Many of them were only revealed with Chinese students who had an amazing breath of knowledge of symbolism in Chinese culture, and the history of Shihuangdi. A must read!
  Meddington | Nov 25, 2015 |
Amazing graphic treatment of two lives in China during the Boxer Rebellion - a girl driven by self disgust to a religious vision, a boy driven by family devastation to military action. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

Gene Luen Yang’s “Boxers & Saints” is a two-volume graphic novel about The Boxer Rebellion in China at the turn of the 20th century. Although each book can be read as standalone, they work best as a set because they tell parallel stories of two Chinese bumpkins caught up on opposite sides of the same war.

The first volume, “Boxers,” follows Little Bao, a poor Chinese village boy who grows up witnessing foreign soldiers and missionaries bully, rob and kill Chinese peasants. With the help of ancient Chinese gods, Bao starts a rebellion in order to rid China of “foreign devils” and their allies “secondary devils,” Chinese converts to Christianity. The second book, “Saints,” tells a story of Four-Girl, a poor Chinese village girl who feels unwanted and unloved by her family. Unexpectedly, Four-Girl finds refuge among Chinese Christians and, guided by the spirit of French heroine Joan of Arc, becomes Christian herself.

THUMBS UP:

1) Aim high, score high.
Although Yang’s project is very ambitious, it is executed flawlessly. The story is thoroughly researched and carefully thought-out, the presentation is impressively creative, the artwork is, as always, superb, and the characters are multidimensional and relatable.

2) Entertaining and educational.
“Boxers & Saints” is both an engaging magical realism story and a thought provoking interpretation of the motives behind a significant historical event, The Boxer Rebellion (which I knew nothing about!).

3) Perfect format.
Yang’s decision to divide this original story into two parallel stories is ingenious. By telling two different sides of the same story the author allows the reader to understand the war and its motives from the opposing perspectives. But more importantly, such division enables the author to remain objective because there is no need to favor, judge or justify either side. And in this case it is the author’s objectivity that makes the whole story so powerful.

VERDICT: 3.5 out of 5

Gene Luen Yang’s “Boxers & Saints” is a unique look at a significant event in the history of China - The Boxer Rebellion - as it is seen from two opposing camps. Such a serious topic together with the author’s creativity, talent and effort put into researching results in a very appealing sort of read: both entertaining and educational.

POST SCRIPTUM:

Although I found Gene Luen Yang’s “Boxers & Saints” entertaining and thought provoking, it is also quite violent and dark, and thus, I personally prefer his earlier graphic novel “American Born Chinese,” which is much more uplifting and hilarious. ( )
1 vote AgneJakubauskaite | Oct 25, 2014 |
In a nutshell, this is the story of the Boxer Rebellion in China, told in graphic form from two perspectives: that of Little Bao, a boy growing up in traditional fashion in a small village, and "Four-Girl," a runaway who finds a home in a Catholic missionary-led community. Both children are driven by visions over the years, of Chinese gods and of Joan of Arc, respectively.

This is a tough one for me. Better go with the Pros-Cons approach.

Pros
--Shines light on topic uncommon to a general American audience (and elsewhere, most likely)
--Equal weight/ given to male and female protagonists and to traditional and Catholic Chinese sides.
--Outstanding graphics: simple yet rich and evocative
--The fantastical elements (visions) fit in nicely with the form of the novel.

Cons
--The tight focus necessarily limits context, although info can be gleaned by reading between the lines, er, pictures.
--I still have some cognitive dissonance when this art form, which I most often associate with light topics/humor, is used for serious or dark subject matter. I also had this issue with Maus, with which I think Boxers & Saints is comparable in quality. Your mileage may vary, of course.
--In the end, as with most war stories, I'm left with the feeling of "what a waste."

I'd recommend this novel for fans of the graphic form, adult history buffs, Catholics, and high-school history classes. ( )
  Pat_F. | Jul 25, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gene Luen Yangprimary authorall editionscalculated
Piem, LarkColoristsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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