Sunday, February 18, 2007

American Born Chinese


American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Copy from publisher, First Second; Cybils winner.

The Plot: Three stories are being told: of the Monkey King, who strives to be something he is not; and is then mocked and excluded and humiliated for being who he is. Of Jin Wang, from San Francisco, who is always introduced as being "from China", with his name mangled, despite being born in America. He wants to fit in. Then there is Danny and his cousin, with his cousin the embodiment of every negative stereotype in the world, from how he pronounces his words to his clothes to what he does.

The Good: As the chapters alternate stories, from myth (Monkey King) to realistic (Jin Wang) to bizarre (Danny is obviously Caucasian and his cousin is every negative Asian Stereotype personified) the reader wonders, how does this all fit together? Once the pieces of the puzzle click together, it's very satisfying and the reader wants to go back and start over, to pick up what was missed and to see how the stories overlap.

American Born Chinese is about the Chinese American experience; about growing up when people think because of your appearance you cannot be "American". But it is also about conflicts between immigrants and first generation children, about discovering your self, about teenagers and high school politics, about perceptions of yourself and others. For those teachers who match up modern day YA books with classics, I would match this up with any book that is about the first generation experience in America.

American Born Chinese won this year's Printz Award, as well as the Cybils for Graphic Novels (age 13 plus.)

Links:
the infamous rant against Graphic Novels and the National Book Award.
Gene Yang responds.
Outside of a Cat review.
The Brookshelf review.
Librarina review.
Reading YA: Readers' Rants review.
The Rock & Roll Librarian review.

Confession: I went looking for links and between the Printz and Cybils, I was overwhelmed by the number of blogs mentioning this title. So if I left out your review, let me know in the links, and I'll fix that right quick.

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