May 11, 2009

American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

First Second, New York, 2006

This is a beautifully rendered and well written book that braids together three story lines. The book open with a tale about the Monkey King, a famous Chinese trickster character, who crashes a party in heaven and wrecks havoc. Then we are introduced to Jin Wang, who has moved from San Fransisco to suburbia and entered a very white elementary school. Finally we meet Danny and his cousin Chin-Kee, a perfect representative of the stereotypical Chinese "coolie". Gene Yang does a wonderful job leading the reader in different directions until the final surprising resolution. This may be a bit confusing for some but it pays off in the end.

These stories are funny, poignant and combine to create a tale of race, identity, exclusion and self acceptance . This book has been awarded several prizes including the Printz Prize in 2007 and a National Book Award nomination. Like Laika, American Born Chinese would be a great introduction to the graphic novel genre.

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