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Monday, August 3, 2009

Review: Gene Luen Yang's 'American Born Chinese'

Yet another of my reads for the Wild Things Summer Reading Challenge. I had been wanting to read this for awhile, so I was excited. It did not disappoint.

American Born Chinese American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Gene Luen Yang blends three stories (that of the famous chinese Monkey god from Journey to the West; the story of Jin Wang, an American boy born of Chinese immigrants; and Chin-Kee, a walking stereotype) into one humorous and thought-provoking story told in graphic novel form that reads like a self-effacing diary. His characters are funny and charming, and the three separate threads combine at the end to make them something greater than the sum of their parts.
American Born Chinese is easily a one-sitting read, though much more time may be spent poring over the illustrations (which have a Bazooka Joe lightness to them), which capture the moods perfectly.
Despite mild and rare cursing, this book can easily be shared with younger readers.
Yang manages to deal with serious subjects with a light hand, respecting them without getting bogged down in didacticism or the pointing of fingers. His writing is fun, witty and playful, and his book charming.

View all my reviews >>

Bonus Material:
Honestly, this was one of those books where everything worked. The illustrations were perfectly matched to the tone, which was nice for the subject matter, which could have gotten:

Hmm, maybe I should change didactic to atrocious and add a d)...

But no. This is a perfect "discussion" book for teens. It won't take long to read, and there are pictures, so even the thickest kids should get it. It raises issues in a roundabout way, which is perfect for discussion because you can enjoy the book on its own and then get into analyzing it, instead of feeling the need to agree/disagree/argue/throw it as you are reading. I would really recommend it to teachers and parents who want to read with their teens and have something meaningful come of it.
Or to anyone who wants a laugh.


  1. I really really want this book. I keep looking at it every time I go to the bookstore, and then talking myself out of it. To be honest, I've never completely read a graphic novel (though I've always wanted too!). It just seems that they're a bit more expensive than prose novels. I might go check out the Book Depository though. I've heard great things about this one, and I SO want to get my hands on a copy.

    Natalie @ Mindful Musings

  2. I don't know that there's really a need to buy it, except that some of the panels are so funny. But you'll read it so quickly, and it's not necessarily something you'll read again and again, so I don't know that I would recommend spending the money when it's an hour and 1/2 read. You know?

  3. Yep. Definitely understand that. I think that's another reason why I've never bought a graphic novel. Library list again, possibly? I'll have to check and see if they have it.

  4. Even though I find graphic novel quite hard going I keep being attracted to them.

    With the added attraction of a Chinese theme and this excellent review it has been added to my wishlist

  5. I'm not sure if this book would appeal to me if it wasn't a graphic novel. I don't think so. As I don't like graphic novels, and the premise doesn't appeal, this won't be a book I pick up. However, I think it's great that real issues can and are dealt with in graphic novels, I think that's awesome! Great review Misty!

  6. I've never read a graphic novel and I think this one (based on your reviews, the snyopsis and a few other reviews) sounds like one of the best ones to start reading. I really like the title and I love how you said 'even the thickest kids could get it' ;)


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