Tuesday, August 3, 2010

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is another required reading book on the IWU Adolescent Literature syllabus.  For the full list click here.  I'm trying to read them all by the end of the summer.  Only 3 more to go!

American Born Chinese is the first graphic novel I have read.  I labeled it middle readers and YA.  I'm not familiar enough with graphic novels to know who reads them or which audience they are written for.  Please comment if you know.

From the front cover:
"...three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant, and action-packed.  American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax--and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent."

One of the tales is an adaptation of the famous Chinese tale about the Monkey King.  Yang explains the history of the tale and his reasoning for making some changes to the classic here.
Here are the highlights: 
At its heart, The Journey to the West is a Buddhist morality tale. In the original, the Monkey King raises havoc among the gods of all other traditional Chinese religions, and it is only the Buddha that is finally able to put him in his place. In American Born Chinese, I've replaced the story's Buddhist underpinnings with Christian ones, drawing from my own faith.
Christianity, you see, lies at the very center of my identity as an Asian-American.
 Hooray!  Finding out this information straight from the horse's mouth made my day!  As I was reading the book I really struggled, wondering, "Is Yang making fun of the One True God?"  I was so glad to find out he is not using the character Tze-Yo-Tzuh as a mockery of God!

I mentioned in another post that I'm not fond of immigration literature.  However, this book breaks the mold of the traditional immigration story.  Boys and girls will enjoy it due to the comic book style, humor, and fast pace of the story.  I recommend it for those who "don't like to read."

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