Friday, May 30, 2008

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Yang, Gene Luen (2006). American Born Chinese. New York: First Second, 233 pages.

This graphic novel intertwines an ancient Chinese fable with two modern tales of young life as an Asian-American. The Monkey King is eager to be accepted as a god, but is not welcomed into the feast because he is a monkey with no shoes. Henceforth, he attempts to denounce his monkey-hood to be accepted as an equal to the gods. In California, Jin Wang is trying to be accepted as a Chinese-American in his middle school. With a little help from his friend, Wei-Chen, Jin even manages to ask the girl he likes out, but not without some challenges. Last, Danny, a blond kid, somehow has a cousin who is the Chinese stereotype. He visits every year and destroys Danny's social life. Cleverly, these stories converge revealing a lesson about accepting ourselves.

I've said this before but graphic novels really aren't my thing. I respect them. In fact, graphic novels often incorporate more difficult vocabulary than their traditional counterparts. Reading a graphic novel depends on different set of literacy skills. That said, I'm just not the most visually literate person in the world. So in judging the book I'm trying to divorce myself from a general dislike. In this case I enjoyed it, but I didn't think it was amazing. The telling of the modern school stories interested me more than the fable of the Monkey King. I find mythology in all its forms dull. But all sections incorporated some clever dialogue and humor which kept me going. The art was clear and not difficult for a novice like me to understand. The actions in the images were consistent with the text. This book has earned a lot of acclaim and while I enjoyed it I'm not sure it was worth all the accolade.

No comments: