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.


  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.

  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.

  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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