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 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.
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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.