American Born Chinese
So I kind of keep this a secret from most people, but I used to be a big fan of graphic novels. I have read a huge variety of genres of graphic novels, varying from action to quirky magic. That being said, when I first read the inside of American Born Chinese, I was honestly not very interested. The description of Jin Wang’s story sounded ok yet a little boring; as soon as I read the description for the Monkey Kings story, I was done. I thought it sounded childish and silly and I was dreading reading it. However, after actually reading it I feel slightly bad for my prior judgments and see it as a good read with a heartfelt message.
All the stories in the inside panel sounded so different from each other; so when it said they were all going to tie in together at the end I was curious how Gene Luen Yang was going to accomplish it. When she finally did, I was definitely surprised to find out that Danny was really Jin Wang. Yet, when I found out that Chin-kee (when I first saw this name, I didn’t realize that it was a mocking of the word “chinky” embarrassingly enough…) was really the monkey king I thought it was a little out there. When he told Danny/Jin Wang that the reason he was disguising himself was to be Jin Wang’s conscience, or sign post to his soul, I thought that was really interesting. The whole time I was reading Danny’s story, I couldn’t believe how they were portraying Chin-kee because it was clear that he was designed to be like every racial stereotype out there; Chin-kee had giant buck-teeth, squinty eyes, long braided hair, traditional silk Chinese clothes and ate cat chow mein. Needless to say, I was quite shocked to see him in the book. So when it was revealed that he was the physical reminder to Danny of everything he was embarrassed about his race, and how people perceived his race, it helped with said confusion as it finally gave a reason why he was included.
This book definitely had a good moral to it; that you should always accept yourself and not be ashamed of whom you are, especially for the sake of other peoples opinions, because you’re perfect the way you are. Other than for the good moral of the story, I’m not quite sure if I would read this again or recommend it for entertainment purposes to someone else. Other than the good morals, the story’s in it, especially the shape-shifting aspects, were a little too far out there for my taste. Don’t get me wrong, I love myths and fiction; I just think that American Born Chinese didn’t carry it out to my personal liking. I can definitely see how it is so popular and has won an award, but I would really only recommend it for academic reasons.
Also, when reading it I didn’t see it as applying to only Chinese teens, or that race, which was a big aspect of it, was the biggest. As it was pointed out in class, I saw it as relatable to every race, as a relatable to story to all around teen angst and the issues of fitting in; that awkward teen stage that most people, including myself, experienced. I also have the hard time finding that fine line between books being a racial inequality issue or simple teen conformity issues. I do believe that this book, although covering both, falls in the ladder; which makes it a more attainable book for more cultures as well.
There were only two other problems I had with the book—the use of potty humor and the above narrations (if that’s the correct term for them).We were discussing it in class, the narrations that were throughout the book, especially in the story of the Monkey King. At points, like on page 163 for instance, I found it a bit confusing. It also kind of irked me on page 10 and 11, when it would narrate the story in a serious fashion but then make it silly with what the Monkey King says. I also dislike potty humor in most things, so I wasn’t the biggest fan of situations involving the Monkey King/Chin-kee peeing in/on things or when the Monkey King farted in the demons face. This aspect just made it seem a little childish to me.