American Born Chinese

by Gene Luen Yang

Other authorsGene Luen Yang (Illustrator)
Paperback, 2008





Square Fish (2008), Edition: First, 240 pages


Alternates three interrelated stories about the problems of young Chinese Americans trying to participate in the popular culture. Presented in comic book format.

Media reviews

School Library Journal Review Starred Review. Gr 7 Up Graphic novels that focus on nonwhite characters are exceedingly rare in American comics. Enter American Born Chinese, a well-crafted work that aptly explores issues of self-image, cultural identity, transformation, and self-acceptance. In a series of three linked tales, the central characters are introduced: Jin Wang, a teen who meets with ridicule and social isolation when his family moves from San Francisco s Chinatown to an exclusively white suburb; Danny, a popular blond, blue-eyed high school jock whose social status is jeopardized when his goofy, embarrassing Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, enrolls at his high school; and the Monkey King who, unsatisfied with his current sovereign, desperately longs to be elevated to the status of a god. Their stories converge into a satisfying coming-of-age novel that aptly blends traditional Chinese fables and legends with bathroom humor, action figures, and playground politics. Yang s crisp line drawings, linear panel arrangement, and muted colors provide a strong visual complement to the textual narrative. Like Toni Morrison s The Bluest Eye and Laurence Yep s Dragonwings, this novel explores the impact of the American dream on those outside the dominant culture in a finely wrought story that is an effective combination of humor and drama. Philip Charles Crawford, Essex High School, Essex Junction, VT Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. From: Reed Elsevier Inc. Copyright Reed Business Information

User reviews

LibraryThing member SturgisPublicLibrary
Some books try hard to describe the importance of knowing oneself. Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel does more than illustrate the importance of knowing oneself, it provides a richly textured, aesthetically pleasing story that follows the paths of three characters as they journey to self-understanding. At once a novel that illustrates the harmful tendencies of racial bigotry, but also a novel that explores the role of individual in a misunderstood ethnic society. It is not difficult to see why Yang won the prestigious Micheal L. Printz award for this clever story. This title is currently available in our library. Happy Reading!… (more)
LibraryThing member anyanwubutler
This graphic novel has three threads going simultaneously: the story of the Monkey King, who doesn‘t want to be a monkey, but a god. The story of Danny whose cousin Chin- Kee a Chinese stereotype comes once a year to ruin his life. And Jin Wang, who is American Born Chinese and just wants to get through his suburban high school. I‘m glad I read it.… (more)
LibraryThing member AllisonBates
1. American Born Chinese depicts three different tales throughout a graphic novel layout, finally linking the stories at the end. A mythological tale about a monkey king and two teen-based stories of acceptance of the Asian culture in American high schools integrate issues of self esteem, ethnic appreciation, and bullying. Students of all demographics can relate to Jin Wang and Danny, and those of Asian descent especially would find humor in the references to Chinese, Taiwan, and Japanese culture. Though set with funny undertones, the reader can easily distinguish the emotions the writer is trying to unearth; the way Asian students assimilate (or don’t assimilate) into mainstream culture determines their survival on a social basis. Morality also plays a part in the roles, as the characters must determine what is right and wrong with issues such as lying, loyalty, and family appreciation. Funny as this book is, lessons can be learned from its visually amusing context and narrative.
2. This book could easily be used to introduce the idea of diversity in the classroom. It does have a couple uses of profanity and some innuendos, but the general theme of the book is one that could foster moral debates amongst a class of 13-14 year olds. Students could discuss how certain characters should have acted based on their own personal moral beliefs. Also, they could do a writing assignment on personal experiences (or observations) of racial bullying in their school or community. Have students discuss their own diverse lifestyles. Use this graphic novel as an introduction to Asian culture, such as folklore and the introduction of the Asian lifestyle to America. When did Asian Americans first begin to emerge in the United States? Talk about the “Red Scare” and other notable historical events. Allow students to form opinions on these events, and justify their answers morally, politically, and socially.
3. The pictures, along with the witty references and allusions in this graphic novel were wonderful. Though I am not a huge fan of the graphic novel per say, this one captured and held my attention. The pictures were not overwhelming, the storylines were easy to follow, and yet the theme was still a reputable one which can be used as a significant topic in a classroom. I believe students can gain a glimpse of Asian American social struggles through this book, especially within the teenage social realm. Any book that provides visual amusement in conjunction with moral discussion is one that I believe to be justifiable in printing. “American Born Chinese” has renewed my faith in the graphic novel genre. I stand corrected!
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LibraryThing member ashleymcquirk
This is a graphic novel which includes 3 stories that eventually resolve into one story. There is the story of the monkey king who masters immortality, the sitcom of an American boy whose Chinese cousin comes to visit, and the story of a young boy adjusting to life at an American public school. The monkey king turns out to be the Chinese cousin and the American boy in the sitcom is the young boy from the American public school. The story is quite delightful and gives subtle hints throughout that the stories are all working together.

One teaching point for this would be to look at the history of Chinese immigrants to America. It is a history that is largely ignored in the classrooms and this graphic novel presents an opportunity to show that history to students. Another teaching point might be to look at language, especially since the novel is based on stereotypes. Also, the monkey king story is told in a similar way that oral tradition stories are told when they are written down.

I enjoyed this graphic novel for a few reasons. One reason I enjoyed this novel is the colors used in the pictures. I appreciate colors that pop and keep me interested in looking at the pictures. I haven't read many graphic novels and I'm still adjusting to looking at the pictures just as much as I pay attention to the words on the page. I liked that it mixed in the story from the young boy's point of view as he navigates his way into finding an identity as a Chinese person in America.
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LibraryThing member Nicole_16
This book begins with the story of the monkey king. He has mastered the twelve discipline of kong fu and wants to be accepted by everyone else. He will go to any extent so everyone will know he is the Monkey King of Flower Fruit Mountain. The next chapter begins with Jin. Jin has to deal with being born American, but appearing Chinese. Jin struggles with belonging in school and maintaining relationships. The third chapter begins with Danny and his cousin Chin-kee. Danny is embarrassed of his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee and does everything to avoid him. This book is three different stories that eventually turn into one story.

The only concern I would have in using this book in my classroom would be offending any Chinese students. I do not know if they will find this book funny or offensive. Since there is a lot of stereotypes in this book about Chinese people, I think a teacher should be careful in using this book. However, this may be a hit with Chinese students, the teacher will just have to know their students. A good thing to discuss with this book will be its format. The teacher could discuss the different terms of comic books and allow the students to see how the terms play a role in this particular books. I believe one major term that is vital to the discussion of this book is gutters and how the reader has to use their imagination to determine what happens in between each gutter.

The book overall was really good. It was very suspenseful and hilarious. I always wanted to keep reading to find out what happened to the next character. It caught me off guard to find out that Jin is Danny and Chin-Kee is the monkey king. I loved how all three stories ended up being about two people. I would recommend this book to others. It is an easy read and provided me with a positive view of comic books.
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LibraryThing member mattsya
The three different storylines all have their own graphic and thematic touches that nicely set them apart from each other. Like Clowes and Thompson, Yang uses traditional comic mechanics to add depth and subtext to the narrative. The monkey king action sequences are hilarious and thrilling, the two, more contemporary storylines discuss issues of identity and friendship beautifully. Fans of Clowes and Craig Thompson will enjoy this comic, And superhero and manga fans may appreciate the near-animation quality of the art.… (more)
LibraryThing member DF6B_YuweiW
This is such a funny book! It's aewsome that it makes a highschooler laugh out loud by some simple insights like "stop acting like a F.O.B!" and "why coke? to pee in it?" I really liked reading it and I read it many times, it;s the one book that I believe many ABCs can find parallel to their lives. I really had fun reading it.… (more)
LibraryThing member LindseyHerring
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang. The novel consists of three seemingly unrelated tales following the stories of The Monkey King, Jin Wang, and Danny and cousin Chin-Kee. Jin is a Chinese-American who is struggling with his identity. He feels different from his peers and just wants to fit in. The conclusion of the novel brings the three tales together in a surprising twist.

American Born Chinese would be a great teaching tool when talking about diversity. Jin is picked on and doesn't want to accept his culture because it makes him so different. Teachers could use this book to show students that being different is what makes people interesting and that we can learn from one another's differences. Also, the Monkey King story within the book could introduce the different types of fables from all over the world.

I really enjoyed this book. I was not expecting the three stories to be tied together in the end. I think the Chin-Kee story was a great example of the stereotypes Chinese-Americans face. However, I was not happy with the ending. I wish that it would have continued past where it ended because I wanted to know if Jin and Wei-Chen remained friends.
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LibraryThing member mrcmyoung
Three stories are artfully woven together: Jin Wang tries to fit in at his mostly white school. Danny's mysterious and stereotypical cousin, Chin-Kee ruins his high school social life when he comes to visit. And a Monkey King who aspires to be taken seriously as a god learns to accept who he is.
LibraryThing member Jacob_Kent
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel written by Gene Luen Yang. This book has become very popular, earning several awards since its publication, including the Michael L. Printz Award fro Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

This novel follows three seemingly unrelated story lines, though all three come together by the end of the book. The first tale is a ancient Chinese fable of the Monkey King of Flower-Fruit Mountain and his struggle to find identity with the other gods. The second follows a Chinese student named Jin Wang as he enrolls into American schools. Jin Wang meets discrimination from most of his schoolmates, until another Asian students comes to town. In the third story, Danny is a high school student who has been moving schools ever since his annoying Chinese cousin has been coming to visit. The story opens at the beginning of one of his cousin's visits, and Danny struggles to win back his respect within the school.

I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel. The lessons it teaches are very important, plus the illustrations were great as well. Yang's characters all struggle with fitting in to their surroundings. They change their images, attitudes, clothes, and actions just to gain acceptance from those around them. The Monkey King even learns countless Kung Fu tricks just to be worth of honor and respect. All students need to learn that we are all unique, and that changing to impress others is not embracing our own individuality. So many aspects of our society are being controlled by the media. Tv shows and movies are telling kids to look a certain way or act a certain way, but this book tells kids that its perfectly ok to be yourself.

Teaching Connections:
1. I think a family tree could be an interesting activity to do with this book, or at least looking up the history of each student's last name. That way they could all see that they all have heritage from somewhere other than America.
2. This book applies to not only foreign students, but all. Book could be used if there were problems in the classroom.

Overall, American Born Chinese is a wonderful graphic novel that is both interesting and visually pleasing. I think that all students will be able to relate to this book, especially if they are struggling with finding their place in the school.
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LibraryThing member stephxsu
This book became a groundbreaker for graphic novels by winning the 2007 Printz Award, the highest award given to young adult literature. What do a mythical monkey king, a Chinese boy, and a white boy have in common? More than you think!

Jin Wang moves from his almost completely Asian neighborhood to a white suburb. The monkey king (a famous Chinese legend) deals with his arrogance and feelings of superiority, only to be taught humility. Danny, a white boy, must deal with annual visits from his super-Chinese cousin Chin-Kee, who always manages to ruin Danny’s life just enough that he is forced to transfer schools at the end of every year.

Each of their tales is touchingly real and raw with truth, and come together in a somewhat confusing ending. Asians and non-Asians alike will appreciate the myth, mystery, and reality that appear in AMERICAN BORN CHINESE. I highly recommend this novel.
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LibraryThing member AgneJakubauskaite

"American Born Chinese" is Gene Luen Yang's multiple-award-winning comic book, featuring three seemingly unrelated stories. The first tale is a well-known Chinese fable about the Monkey King, who is the master of kung-fu and the ruler of the monkey kingdom, Flower-Fruit Mountain. There is only one thing the Monkey King is unhappy about: he doesn’t want to be a monkey. The second story is centered around Jin Wang, American born Chinese, who transferred to a new school, where he is one of the very few Asian students and because of that has a hard time fitting in. The last storyline follows Danny, a popular white teenager, who is frequently forced to switch schools to escape humiliation after annual visits of his cousin Chin-Kee, the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype. Towards the end of the book an unexpected twist reveals that the three tales are, in fact, one great story of self-acceptance.


The plot of “American Born Chinese” is packed with action, and the scenes are hilarious to the point of shameless racism. This book draws you in from the very first pages… but so does the majority of the better comic books, right? Halfway through the book I caught myself doubting whether there was some deeper meaning at all and I was still looking for the signs of exceptionality. But when the climax came, I was blown away. Wow..! The message is so simple yet so universally powerful…

VERDICT: “American Born Chinese” is un ultimate entertainment: fast-paced, hilarious and enlightening.
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LibraryThing member Markell08
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel written by Gene Luen Yang. It was published in 2006 by First Second Books. In 2006, American Born Chinese was a finalist in National Book Awards in the category of Young People’s Literature. It won the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award and the 2007 Eisner Awards for Best Graphic Album. American Born Chinese is the first graphic novel to be recognized by the National Book Foundation. It was colored by cartoonist Lark Pien, who received the 2007 Harvey Award for being the best colorist for her work on the book.

American Born Chinese starts off with three actually different tales, and then they are put together at the climax. The first tale is the tale of The Monkey King, which is all through China and in many parts of Africa. This tale is about the Monkey King who is born of stone becoming something that he is not, and he masters the twelve disciplines of Kung Fu. The second tale is about an immigrant name Jin Wang, who is from China. Jin Wang is still influenced by Chinese culture. The story is about his life in which he makes a best friend, and falls in love with a girl. The third tale is a story about a boy name Danny, who is American. Danny Chinese cousin Chin-kee comes to visit every year. Chin-kee is very Chinese in terms of accent, fashion, hobbies, and appearance. The high school Danny goes to is called Oliphant High School, which Yang said is named after Pat Oliphant. Jin Wang is an American born Chinese, who is just trying to fit in.

The book was interesting and kind of realistic because it was something that I could relate to. Everyday in the world, people are trying so hard to fit in, just like the characters that were in this graphic novel. The book raises the issue of fitting in. I strongly agree with the author opinion about the issue of fitting in. The characters in these stories are apparently ashamed of themselves and try to do whatever they can do to fit in or be somebody that is really not them. They wanted to fit into their environment. The Monkey King is ashamed of being a monkey, so he tries to act like a man by wearing clothes and shoes, so that he can fit in. Jin asks Wei-Cheng to speak English and eat what they eat, because he wanted to be like an American so he could fit in. The author gives us characters that did what they could to try and fit in. There are so many people in the world today especially those who go to school who try to fit in with the clown or with different people so they will not be the outcast or be alone. I could relate Yang issue about fitting in with Monster by Walter Dean Myers because in this book Steve was arrested of doing something the he knew was wrong but he did it out of peer pressure and out of the fact of trying to fit in with the others. The book can relate to larger issues such as people changing the way they look such as there appearance and the things that they were just so they could look and fit in with everybody else. People today uses skin care, surgeries and do other things to there body so they can look like friends or peers, so they just can fit in with the crowd. The fitting in issues happens everyday especially in our schools today.

Teaching Connections:
• Teachers could use this book in class and let the children research their backgrounds and the cultures that their ancestors came from, ending in making their choice of visual aid about their heritage.
• Teachers could also use this to introduce a bullying unit or a lesson about fitting in and being different.

My comments and ideas about the graphic novel were good. Even though it was kind of hard to read the book at first because of it having three tales or story into one, but the more I continue to read the more I kind of understood. I would recommend this book to anyone, because we've all had trouble fitting in somewhere at some point. My main point about the book was fitting in. In life people are different, we all come from different cultures, backgrounds, and we all look different in some way. American Born Chinese can really teach us that sometimes it is hard to fit in but you do not have to change yourself or anything about yourself to fit in. JUST BE YOU!!!
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LibraryThing member veevoxvoom
As a Chinese immigrant who grew up in North America, this book rang particularly true for me. Childhood in general is full of the pressure to fit in, but it's doubly difficult when you come from an alien culture. This is a graphic novel that follows three stories: one is the famous Chinese folktale of the Monkey King, the second is that of a young Chinese boy going to school in the US, and the third is that of an American boy embarrassed by his stereotypically Chinese cousin. These three separate tales converge to form a single look at diversity in America, childhood alienation, and the acceptance of the 'different' self. Gene Luen Yang pulls it off with enviable skill. His drawings are excellent, and the stories are funny and alternately heart-breaking. Some people have said the end is too vague, but I thought it was appropriate. The characters, after all, still have ways to go, and so do the people around them.… (more)
LibraryThing member welkinscheek
Fantastic! I love the parallel story with the monkey king!
LibraryThing member eadavis83
This book is for older children. It is a good graphic novel for children to read. It is very interesting, but sometimes hard to read. The different comics can be hard to read for an adult, but the children seem to enjoy it.
LibraryThing member akagracie
Yet more proof that a picture is worth a thousand words. Graphic novels are, in the right hands (such as Gene Yuen Lang's ) every bit as illuminating and interesting and thought-provoking as any straightforward work of fiction. In fact, some of them, such as Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis books and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, are books I recommend without reservation or purpose of evasion (to coin a phrase) - they're just darned good works of art about life and humanity. I shall now recommend this work, too, as being wise, witty, well-drawn, and wonderfully expressive of basic truths about ourselves and our relationships.… (more)
LibraryThing member bwoodreader
Jin Wang wants to fit in, but as the only Chinese American at his school he tends to get picked on and bullied. With intertwined chapters about Jin Wang and his attempts to blend in and the Monkey King, one of the most beloved characters in Chinese fables, we learn about the troubles of teenagers who stand out because they are different and the power of identity.… (more)
LibraryThing member chibimajo
Printz winner! Starting in 3 alternating timelines, this chronicles the story of the Monkey King and a Chinese American who ends up denying his Chinese heritage in an effort to fit in at school. Eventually, all three paths converge into a happy ending.
LibraryThing member spacecat77
An amazing graphic novel that artfully combines three stories to create a coming of age/self acceptance book.
LibraryThing member eduscapes
A powerful graphic novel, this award winning book explores issues such as friendship and stereotypes. Told as three intersecting stories, the fast paced novel provides a unique perspective on life as an "American Born Chinese". I hope this wonderful graphic novel encourages others to use sequential art for this type of quality storytelling for young adults.… (more)
LibraryThing member marnattij
The stories of the Monkey King, Jin-Wang lonely middle school student, and Danny who is embarrassed by his Chinese cousin entwine in this memoir-style graphic novel.

It's a great story, well told.
LibraryThing member jeriannthacker
Refreshingly honest, powerful, funny. Takes rascism seriously by making fun of it. Printz Award Winner.
LibraryThing member yarmando
Terrific story, cutting between the life of Chinese American boy Jin Wang, a folktale of the Monkey King, and a sitcom about Danny and his cousin "Chin-Kee" (an offensive racist stereotype). The three storylines begin to resonate against each other, finally coming together in a way that is jarring but satisfying. Worth repeated reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member plashyreads
Yang draws from American pop culture and ancient Chinese mythology in his groundbreaking work. Expertly told in words and pictures, Yang’s story in three parts follows a Chinese American teenager’s struggle to define himself against racial stereotypes. “American Born Chinese” is the first graphic novel to be recognized by the Michael L. Printz Committee.… (more)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

240 p.; 5.64 inches


0312384483 / 9780312384487


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