Summer Read: American Born Chinese

Tied in with this summer’s GIFT program and it’s theme (“Will You Be My Neighbor?”), DCPC Youth is hosting a summer read: the multiple award-winning graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang:

A tour-de-force by New York Times bestselling graphic novelist Gene Yang, American Born Chinese tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny’s life with his yearly visits. Their lives and stories come together with an unexpected twist in this action-packed modern fable. American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax.

We will be getting together to talk about the book and go deeper into the story and its implications and theology on Sunday August 15th. If you want to read the book before then, we will be giving away copies at GIFT and we’ll have other copies to loan. You can also find it at the library or your favorite bookseller.

A note about content: If American Born Chinese was a movie, it would be rated PG-13. There’s a bit of sexual innuendo, potty humor, and fantasy violence, but what really requires maturity is how the book deals frankly with racism and stereotypes. Yang’s own experiences as an Asian-American are recreated in Jin’s story as he and his friends are the targets of racial slurs and other forms of racism. The scenes with Chin-Kee are difficult to read, but also honest reflections of how Asians and American-Asians have been represented in American media. You can read more about the portrayal of Chin-Kee and Yang’s own experiences in this interview.

Ultimately, we’re reading American Born Chinese for multiple reasons. It’s a great way to better understand racism, but it’s also brilliantly drawn, laugh-out-loud funny, cleverly constructed, and rooted in the outsider experience that all of us feel at some point in our lives.