Thursday, May 07, 2015

Reader's Diary #1151- Gene Luen Yang: American Born Chinese

Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese revolves around a second generation Chinese-American boy named Jin and his struggles to fit in. However, his story is just one of three being told simultaneously; the others being a folk tale about a Monkey King who struggles to get other gods to accept him and a sitcom parody featuring a white teen being visited by an overbearing and over-the-top Chinese caricature relative.

It is not difficult to see how the other stories relate to Jin's life and if they had never actually intertwined at all, I would still have appreciated them. However, when Yang does connect them toward the end, it's downright brilliant. It's also not as heavy-handed as one might expect. It's poignant, no doubt about it, but the humor (slapstick, satire, and observational) makes the message not only palatable but absolutely enjoyable. And while it's got immigrant and second-generation immigrant themes that I would imagine others with such backgrounds would relate to, the idea of a teenager wishing he could fit in and be someone else is more universal. I related to a familiar perspective and learned from an unfamiliar one at the same time.

The art reminded me of a lot of other North American YA graphic novelists (Bryan O'Malley, Vera Brosgol, Faith Erin Hickes) but still quite fitting. It's certainly friendly for demographic it's aimed at, and again, the humour, bright colours, and very cartoonish looking characters help take the edge of what had the potential to be overbearing themes.

1 comment:

pussreboots said...

American Born Chinese was the first of his books I read. He's now on my list of must-read graphic novel authors.