American Born Chinese

American Born Chines cover

American Born Chinese, 2006, First Second, Gene Luch Yang (writer, artist), full color,
233 pp., $17.95. This is a collection of web comics.

This book combines three stories that intersect by the end of the book. The first is the adventures of the magical Monkey King, an ancient Chinese folk deity and Kung Fu master who achieves the four major disciplines of invulnerability. This leads him to a meeting with his creator, Tze-yo-Tzuh. Tze-Yo-Tzuh says of himself:

“I was, I Am, and I shall forever be. I have searched your soul, little monkey. I know your most hidden thoughts. I know when you sit and when you stand, when you journey and when you rest. Even before a word is upon our tongue, I have known it. My eyes have seen all your days.” (p 80)

Of course this and other such sayings sound suspiciously like the God of the Judeo-Christian scriptures speaking from various Bible passages, including Psalms 139. The second story deals with the trials of the young Taiwanese boy Jin Wang who came to America with his immigrant parents. Jin’s story is one of trying to make a place for himself in an alien culture. The third story concerns Danny (an Anglo appearing high school student) whose main trial in life is an annual visit of his extremely stereotypical and socially embarrassing Chinese cousin Chin-kee. The interactions between Danny, his friends and Chin-kee make for some hilarious situations. As mentioned previously all three of these seemingly divergent tales come together at the conclusion of the story.

Gene Yang’s art is simple and effective storytelling with the flat, bright coloring by Lark Pien complimenting Yang’s linework perfectly. This tale is more than a Asian boy trying to adjust to American culture. This is an amusing story that can teach lessons about prejudice, teenage romance, fitting in and tolerance. This is an excellent graphic novel and the well-deserved of the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.


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