American Born Chinese - J's Review

In addition to this wonderful challenge, I also joined the Graphic Novels Reading Challenge. I didn't officially read this book for that challenge, or for this one, but I've been sucked in enough by the genre that I decided I would try a few more. From other reviews I've read on the Graphic Novel Challenge's blog, I decided to try American Born Chinese. It is a tale of learning to accept oneself, ignoring the disparaging attitudes of those around us. Although American Born Chinese deals with the slings and arrows of racism, I would argue that the themes of acceptance and self-awareness translate well to all of us, and that anyone who has ever felt self-hatred in the face of society and its harsh criticisms can find something to identify with in this story.

The book is told in three tales. First, the ancient story of The Monkey King, who bears a strong resemblance to my personal favorite monkey, Mojo Jojo (minus the huge brain, of course). The monkey king works very hard to gain all of the attributes necessary to become a god, and attend the parties of the other gods. But he is turned away and humiliated, because underneath it all, he is fundamentally a monkey.

The second story is that of Jin Wang, an American Born Chinese boy growing up in the suburbs, attempting to distance himself from his Asian roots. He falls in love with a white girl, and wishes to be part of the popular Caucasian clique in school.

The third story is about Danny and his cousin Chin-Kee. Danny is blonde haired, blue eyed, and for some unknown reason has a Chinese cousin who comes to visit him once a year, humiliating him and making his life miserable by his hyper-stereotypical behavior, until Danny has to change schools, over and over again.

The three stories come together in an unsuspected way, and the lessons learned are lessons that are pretty much universal to the human condition.

American Born Chinese won the 2007 Michael L. Printz award.


    I just read this one last week, and I enjoyed it a lot too. I agree with you that the themes are universal and apply to even those who have never experienced racism. Great review :)

    (PS: A good way to avoid what happened with the images in this post is to save them on your computer and them upload them to, a free image hosting site for which you don't even need to register)

    On March 12, 2008 at 6:40 PM Anonymous said...

    J, I put a different picture in as it was turned into two guys kissing.