American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang weaves together three stories in this graphic novel: there is the tale of the Monkey King who yearns for acceptance and his deserved place as a God; the story of Jin, a Chinese-American student who is trying to reconcile his cultural identity with the logistics of being a teenager and finally, the story of Danny who is overcome by shame and embarrassment when his cousin Chin-Kee (an embodiment of just about every Chinese stereotype) visits.

The three stories are all of interest on their own, but the way they tie together at the end is where the true value lies.  This book is best read by those who are old enough to understand what Yang is trying to share with us about prejudice, stereotypes and self-acceptance.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – A man compliments a woman on her “peaches” but as she is holding actual peaches, you can pretend there’s nothing to the remark.  Classmates claim that Jin is going to marry the only other Asian student in his class on her thirteenth birthday. A complete non-sexual game involves use of a bra (pictured).  Chin-Kee compliments a girl on her “bountiful American bosom” and says she should bear his children.  There is dating and kissing.  A boy tells a girl she can “pet my lizard anytime.”  A naked baby is shown in one picture, with essential bits covered.
Profanity – “hell”, “pansy-boy,” “friggin'”, “suck,” “gook,” “crap,”
Death, Violence and Gore – The Monkey King does a fair amount of cartoon fighting, with kicking, hitting punching and accompanying cartoon words like BONK, CRACK, BOOM.  At one point he yells “die” and beats up a room full of people. Jin is bullied physically.  Monkey King is decapitated more than one, but it doesn’t really bother him.  He is also sentenced to death.  Chin-Kee brings crispy fried cat gizzards to lunch; the accompanying illustration is of a dead cat in a Chinese take-out container.  A monk bandages the arm of a injured man.  Demons impale a man and roast him on a spit.  A girl punches a boy who kisses her.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – A character is shown smoking a cigarette.
Frightening or Intense Things – There are lots of racially ignorant comments made by white characters.  A bully forces Jin to play “Jews”.

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