Summer Reading: American Born Chinese

It’s summer. You need to relax, but it’s a fine line between relaxing and getting so bored that your brain collapses into mush. How will you balance getting some rest and preventing the collapse of your brain?

Comic books sound like a good compromise, yes? How about a few pictures, a few words, some Asian America, but not too much thinking? If you haven’t read it already, try Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, about all-American boys trying to stay all-American boys when Asian faces appear in their lives. There’s also some Monkey King thrown in because monkeys are cute and apparently the king has some hidden angst. There he is on the cover, getting squished by a big pile of rocks. That alone makes you want to read it, no?

The central theme here is pretty basic–each character thinks he knows who he is and he wants everyone else to treat him accordingly. Jin Wang worries about being friends with other Asian kids because he wants to date a white girl. Danny doesn’t want to be seen with his cousin because his cousin is an embarrassing Chinese stereotype, buck teeth and bad accent included. Monkey King wants to be treated like a badass god instead of a silly little monkey. The lesson, of course, is to take a good look at who you really are, and embrace it. What did you expect? It’s a coming of age story. A funny, engrossing coming of age story.



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