A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese is the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association's Michael L. Printz Award for young-adult literature. It's easy to see why: The art, clever story lines, and thoughtful messages about tolerance and acceptance make it a winner. There's some sexual innuendo, potty humor, kung fu fighting, and a fairly graphic scene in which a monk is impaled on a spear and put on a spit over a fire, though he's rescued. An over-the-top, stereopypical depiction of a Chinese character -- and each of the protagonists' search for acceptance -- make this a better fit for teen readers who have the sophistication to understand the author's intent.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
As AMERICAN BORN CHINESE opens, the title character, Jin Wang, moves with his family from San Francisco's Chinatown to a mostly White suburb. There he's exposed to racism (from children and adults), bullying, and taunts, and he feels isolated until a Taiwanese boy, Wei-Chen Sun, moves in and they become friends. But Jin develops a crush on a White girl and longs to fit in. The second story is a retelling of the story of the Monkey King, a fabled Chinese character who develops extraordinary powers in his quest to be accepted as a god. The third story concerns Danny, a popular White boy who's visited by his cousin, Chin-Kee, a walking, talking example of the most extreme Asian stereotypes. Author-illustrator Gene Luen Yang weaves all three plotlines into one satisfying whole.
Is it any good?
This superb blending of art and story broke barriers and won awards, and will speak to any reader who's felt like an outsider and struggeled to fit in. In American Born Chinese, author-illustrator Gene Luen Yang uses a rather complex narrative structure that blends folklore and school drama. The first graphic novel to win the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, it was also the first to be a finalist for the National Book Award -- truly marking the coming of age and acceptance of the graphic novel as a branch of children's literature.
In addition to its literary complexity, the book promotes solid values of tolerance and self-acceptance. Readers should be savvy enough to understand why Yang introduces a character that embodies negative stereotypes of Chinese people (buck teeth, squinty eyes, bright yellow skin, and he can't pronounce his "r's" or "l's"). American Born Chinese is thoughtful, funny, heartbreaking, and rich in compassion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how feeling like an outsider is portrayed in American Born Chinese. How do Jin, Danny, and the Monkey King try to fit in? What do they learn about acceptance?
How does this book approach the theme of self-acceptance? Why are all the characters trying to be something they're not? Why would a Chinese boy want to be a blond American?
How do the fantastical elements of the book reinforce the more realistic ones, and vice versa?
Are some stories better-suited to prose than to comics? What sorts of narrative effects are possible in a graphic novel that might not work in another medium?
- Author: Gene Luen Yang
- Illustrator: Gene Luen Yang
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: First Second
- Publication date: September 1, 2006
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 233
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: December 4, 2020
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