Monday, July 9, 2012

American Born Chinese, by Gene Yang

American Born Chinese
by Gene Yang 
New York: Square Fish, 2008
240 pages. Ages 12-17.
ISBN 978-0312384487

Ancient Chinese legend bookended by the modern Chinese-American experiences of two adolescents.

American Born Chinese includes three stories that appear initially to be unrelated until the big twist that happens in the end of the book. The first story centers on Jin Wang, the new kid in town trying to navigate his way through a new school and in the process falling for the “all-American girl”. The second story follows a Chinese legend of the Monkey King, who is dissatisfied with being a monkey and wishes to become a god. The third story is about Chin-Kee, a walking negative Chinese stereotype who appears to be ruining his popular cousin’s Danny’s social life.

This picture book discusses and challenges stereotypical images that surround Chinese Americans without coming across as offensive (except where intended to be). The characters within the novel were relatable and well drawn.  7th graders will be able to identify with Jin Wang’s social anxieties surrounding school, family, and culture. Classroom discussion and written responses could include topics of prejudice, stereotypes and archetypes, assimilation, biculturalism, and immigration.

2007 Michael L. Printz Award
2007 Eisner Award Winner for Best Graphic Album
2006 National Book Award nominee

Author’s website
Media: pen and ink

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