Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. First Second Books, 2006. 233 p. PBK $17.95 ISBN 978-1596431522

SUMMARY: Three separate but intertwined stories weave together this representation of a Chinese American teen's thoughts, feelings, and experiences in dealing with his mixed identity. First is the mythical story of the monkey who wants nothing more than to be a god. Next is a realistic story of Jin Wang, one of only three Asian Americans in his school. And last, there is the story of Danny, a blond boy, with a Chinese cousin, Chin-kee, an exaggerated Chinese stereotype who annoys and embarrasses Danny to the point of violence and hatred. The three stories reveal how they are related when they come together in a thought-provoking and hopeful conclusion.

RISKS: Depiction of Chinese stereotypes in Chin-kee's character

EVALUATION: I think this book keenly describes the internal conflict which individuals caught between different cultures might go through. The weaving together of separate and seemingly unrelated narratives in the comic book format makes a compelling reading experience and would make for interesting discussion about the book. Humor is spread throughout the narratives and enhanced by the artwork, which is simple, straightforward, and contains just the right details.

READER'S ANNOTATION: Everyone wonders at times about who they really are. Am I a product of my culture, or am I in control of who I become?

TOPICS: Chinese Americans; identity; schools;

AWARDS: National Book Award Finalist, 2006; ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2007; Michael L. Printz Award, 2007; Will Eisner Best Graphic Album: New, 2007; Booklist Editor's Choice, 2006; SLJ Best Books for Children, 2006; Arizona: Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominees, 2009; New Jersey: Garden State Teen Book Award Nominees, 2009; Pacific Northwest Young Reader's Award Nominees, 2009; Pennsylvania: Young Reader's Choice Award Nominees, 2009; Kentucky: Bluegrass Award Nominees, 2008

Ages 12 & up

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