Review – American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

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American Born Chinese is a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang that follows three storylines: an ancient legend from China about a monkey king, a young boy whose parents were Chinese immigrants, and a white boy who has a Chinese cousin named Chin-Kee.  I loved the story about Jin Wang and the monkey king, but the sections about the Chinese cousin was so difficult to read because it used horrible stereotypes about Chinese people to prove a point.  In the end, those sections made sense and I thought that they were worth it.

When I read the synopsis of the story, I knew that all the stories would eventually come together, but the way they do is unique and surprising.  I only wish this part of the novel had been longer.  All-in-all, I loved this graphic novel, but I really really wanted more.  I wanted more of the relationship between Jin and Amelia, I wanted more of Jin and his relationship with his best friend Wei-Chan, I just wanted more!  It ended way too soon in my opinion, but maybe Yang will write a sequel.  One can dream, right?

This novel is genuinely hilarious.  There are certainly moments that are a little heavier and sad: for example, when Jin and his friends Wei-Chan and Suzy Nakamura deal with the racism at their mostly white high school.  Overall, however, I found myself laughing out loud.  The opening sequence with the monkey king and the opening sequence with Jin are so funny, I want to share them here, but I’ll let you be surprised by them.

As for the quality of the drawings, they were stunning!  I really liked the style and all the colors.  Yang is a very skilled illustrator and he really brought the characters to life.  The art work is totally integral to the story, you can’t have one without the other.  There were parts where just one image would make me start laughing.

Here are some examples of the writing/illustrating/everything:

Jin and Wei-Chan –


Racist classmates –


Monkey king –

Monkey king

Chin-kee –


88% – Left me wanting more, but only because the rest of it was just so dang good.

Other reviews:

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Ready When You Are, CB
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Stuff As Dreams Are Made On
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9 thoughts on “Review – American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

  1. I’d love to see a sequel of this one too 😉 Don’t know if it will happen though. I agree with you 100% The illustrations were wonderful and so was the story and the humor. It handled the issues that were addressed in a perfect way! Now you need to read The Eternal Smile!!

  2. I grabbed this one awhile ago while I was wasting time talking around the library, but haven’t read it yet because of Infinite Jest. But now I want to take break from that and read this, mostly because I could use a book that’s funny in a good way rather than funny in a dark way (all of IJ).

    1. I meant to join the Infinite Jest challenge, but my library was slacking and did not get the book to me in time. Now I’m way too far behind, so I’ll have to do it on my own, at some point! It is definitely the kind of book that is actually funny, and it will be such a quick read it won’t take away from your IJ reading time too much.

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