Merry Wanderer of the Night + novel

American Born Chinese

I read American Born Chinese all today, which I've been trying not to do with graphic novels anymore but I just couldn't help it today. It was so nice outside and I just wanted nothing more than to take a break from the paper I've been writing, grab my bike and head out to the pond to read this outside. It was great break book too, I found myself laughing within the first few pages. This is kind of a multi-plot novel you might say. The main story is about Jin Wang, a Chinese-American boy who is just starting at a new school. He is totally American, but when he gets introduced to his class everyone laughs at him because of his name, the way he looks, and his interests. He at least makes a friend when Wei-Chen comes to his school from Taiwan. Another story is happening with Danny, a white American teenager trying to fit in, but his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee visits him every year, resulting in mocking so horrible he has to transfer schools every year. And then the final storyline is about The Monkey King, who denies he is a monkey and wants nothing more than to be human. How these three stories intersect is really unexpected and something I think would be hard to carry out in a non graphic format. You'll have to read the book to figure out how that is though.

This is one of the few full color graphic novels I've read, and I personally think I really prefer black and white images. That being said, I really enjoy the American pop art feel this book has. It's very youthful and fun, which is fitting since the book is mostly about struggling Chinese-American youth. I thought this gave the book a nice fluidity and it also worked to put me in the mindset of a kid struggling with fitting in. Chinese-American or not, I think that every kid struggles with fitting in and there were moments in this book where I really felt that same feeling in my stomach I had when I was in third grade. The action of this novel, the escalation of emotions, the desire to punch someone in the face for being a jerk to you all was all easy to relate to and I found that Jin Wang was one of the easiest characters to like I have ever found. Even when he was kind of an ass, because you knew why he was acting that way. And that made him human.

While I really enjoyed the ending of this book, I think it all happened a little too fast. I wish Gene Yang would have drawn out the excitement and suspense a little longer, and there were plot strands I didn't think got tied up. Maybe they were less important parts of the novel, but they left me feeling a little unsatisfied. And I so wanted to be satisfied by this book! Especially on page 163 where Jin says the following: "My mother once explained to me why she chose to marry my father. 'Of all the Ph.D students at the university, he had the thickest glasses,' she said. 'Thick glasses meant long hours of studying. Long hours of studying meant a strong work ethic. A strong work ethic meant a high salary. A high salary meant a good husband. You concentrate on your studies now, Jin. Later, you can have any girl you want.' I was forbidden to date until I had at least a Master's degree." To me, these four panels say so much. They connect Jin's parents to us even though we never meet them, we can see how Jin feels about what his parents think is important, we can see the social tension between them, we can see Jin's desire to be different, to be independent. Moments like that were when his book really shined for me.

I wish I could show you all of the awesome parts of this book, but I can't. To get a sense of the style you should check out the video below in which Gene Yang talks about American Born Chinese and some images from the book are put together for you to enjoy!

This graphic novel earned a B.

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American Born Chinese + novel