Monday, May 23, 2011

American Born Chinese

People have been recommending American Born Chinese to me for years. Somehow it never seems to be around when I am able to read it. When I finally got it out of the library, I saved it as a "treat" for after the emotional wringing of Tender Morsels. Perhaps it is all the anticipation that <quiet voice> made me not enjoy it as much as I had hoped.

I wanted to love this book! I believe in the powers of the graphic novel and am desperate for more diversity in my bookshelves. Unfortunately, I was hoping for an Asian American The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (read it, read it, read it) but that is a lot to ask.

Gene Luen Yang's book tells three different narratives: the story of the mythical Monkey King, of Jin Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants that struggles to fit in, and of a sitcom-like teen whose visiting Chinese cousin exemplifies every stereotype of an Asian. Each of the stories has a different tone, but they work together nicely because of the beautiful illustrations and the intersection of all the narratives at the climax.

Despite not shattering my YA mind, it is a good book. I think there are many ways that it could be used creatively in a classroom. I've been searching for a scan of page 96 but haven't come across one. On this page, three teens of Asian descent are having fun and laughing in a park until two boys walk by and say a few racial slurs. The three teens sit quietly, their cheeks burning. These few panels would add so much to a discussion on tolerance, bullying, and ignorance. I love the book for that page.

This review is a bit wishy washy. I say that I was disappointed, but also that it is a good book. Would I add it to my classroom library? Yes. Am I still waiting for the book about the Asian-American experience that will blow me away? Heck yes.

3 comments:

  1. I agree. Both of these two books were the two whole class reads for my college YA lit class last summer. I enjoyed them both, but absolutely loved Sherman Alexie's book.

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  2. I agree 200%! I so desperately wanted to love this book, but just never got into it. Bummer. Junior's story on the other hand? Pure magic.

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  3. Hooray! I'm glad that there are other readers who shared my feelings about "American Born Chinese". I was scared it was going to be a 'cheese stands alone' moment!

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What say you?