I don’t know why I hesitate to read more graphic novels, inexplicable. Perhaps “American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang will put me on the road to heavier reading in the genre. Graphic novels engage a different part of my brain due to the all the art and visual cues. The mood of the characters really pop in graphic novels and take me on a journey of my own inner emotions. Not only did “American Born Chinese” deliver a somber and hopeful mood to me, it delivered a very good, interesting narrative.
At its twisted heart this book was a work of belonging. A theme common to young adult novels, and any book for that matter. There were three stories in the work and three characters that live a separate life of longing. One character was from Chinese lore, and the other two were as the title suggests, American born Chinese. The character from the lore section, The Monkey King, struggles to fit in amidst the world created from him by his God, Tze-Yo-Tzuh. The King is a master of discipline and desires to be a sage emperor of the earth and afterlife. But Tze-Yo-Tzuh says he has created him in the fashion of a monkey for purpose. The King constantly turns from this bestowed identity. The two American characters are Jin Wang and Danny. Towards the end of the novel it is revealed that the two characters are actually the same. The reason why this is important in the book is because Jin Wang is constantly fighting against his Chinese ethnicity and desiring to transform into Danny. The farther Jin Wang steers from who he is, the more he loses his morality and kind soul. This is all this book is about; steering away from who we are created to be. Jin Wang even goes so far as to mirage the image of the Chinese Americans around him in order to suit his prejudices against who he actually is.
If you are a person who likes books about self discovery than look no further. If you are a person who likes books about the flaws of conforming to an Americanized identity, then pick this one up. And lastly if you are a person who likes graphic novels in general, then don’t hesitate!