American Born Chinese - Gene Luen Yang

"My momma says Chinese people eat dogs."
"Now be nice, Timmy! I'm sure Jin doesn't do that! In fact, Jin's family probably stopped that sort of thing as soon as they came to the United States!"

In the third grade, Jin Wang moved from his home near Chinatown, and went from having several Chinese friends to being the only Chinese kid in school. (Unless you count Suzy Nakamura ... who is, of course, Japanese.) Jin is suddenly confronted with stereotypes and prejudice, a situation which isn't helped when Wei-Chen Sun shows up a few months later.

The Monkey King of Flower-Fruit Mountain is ridiculed by the rest of the deities because he's a monkey, and so he gives them a good beating with his kung-fu. Then he sheds his monkey appearance and dubs himself the Great Sage, seeking to be recognized as a deity. He's got an uphill battle to fight.

Danny's an all-American boy who dreads visits from his cousin Chin-Kee, the ultimate Chinese stereotype. He mixes his Ls and Rs and talks about binding the feet of the "pletty Amellican girl wiff bountiful Amellican bosom." He comes to visit every year and ruins Danny's social life, and then Danny flees to a new school.

Yang masterfully jumps between these three tales and then weaves them together in an unexpected twist. He exposes stereotypes about Asian Americans and plays with them at the same time. The illustrations are excellent, with bold lines and a cartoony quality that's especially great for the Monkey King sequences. Jin's predicaments were particularly poignant to me; he wants so much to be "American" but thinks he needs to stop being Chinese to do so.

I really enjoyed this book, and I might need to get myself a copy eventually.

Fed to jonathan's brain | July 03, 2007 | Comments (0)


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