Gene Luen Yang's AMERICAN BORN CHINESE
I’ve already written about how I came upon this book through a combination of new and old media usage. Now I’ve read it and I am very impressed with the book’s quality, humor, nostalgia, and sensitivity.
It’s a beautifully drawn, colored, and printed graphic novel that tells three stories. The first is a retelling of an ancient Chinese legend about the Monkey King and how he matures in his relationship with himself and the gods. The second is about a young Chinese American boy and his cultural and romantic adventures in middle school. The third is about a Chinese American high school student and what happens when he is visited by a cousin who embodies every conceivable racist and cultural stereotype about Chinese people.
While there’s no way I can appreciate all the cultural references and issues raised by this book — I was raised in a white middle class suburb in Central Ohio — there is a simplicity and truth about how young people are presented in the book that is refreshing. Anyone, Chinese American or not, will be able to relate to what goes on in these stories and how they address character, arrogance, young love, and self-respect.
To top it off, the art work, coloring, and page layout of this graphic novel are of the highest quality. I recommend it to anyone who wants to experience something that is both different yet very familiar.