Date Completed: 7/3/2016
At first glance, this book had a series of unconnected stories running parallel throughout the book. However, each story was actually intertwined and important to each other story. This book was beautifully and masterfully put together.
There was a somewhat racist depiction of a character, Chin-Kee, running throughout the story, but it turns out to serve a greater purpose and brings into question stereotypes as well as underlying micro-aggressions. Chin-Kee’s story also brings to light questions about racial discomfort within one’s own group, and how negative outside stereotypes great negative feelings within one’s own identity group. (For more about the psychology behind this, I recommend reading Whistling Vivaldi, which displays research around stereotype threat and identity groups).
I also liked how this book presented the friendship of the two boys, and how that can spark from many shared identities, rather than just from a shared racial identity. Jin Wang and Wei-Chen Sun develop a beautiful friendship that unfortunately does not last forever, as elementary school friendships are wont to do. However, the entire story is contingent on the lifespan and outcome of their relationship, so that takes the reader through some interesting turns throughout the course of the story.
On top of all of these important literary components, the graphics in this novel were beautiful. Yang was able to capture different drawing styles for each story line, which were also effectively combined when the story lines overlapped. Overall this book was just so good I have to recommend reading it, as it will call into question any residing stereotypes you may hold onto in your heart.
Gene Luen Yang is a pretty famous novelist. He began writing graphic novels and comics in 5th grade and has since won many prizes for his work, including the Printz award for this book, American Born Chinese. He’s also worked on comics such as Superman and the continuation comic of Avatar: The Last Airbender. With so much talent, I recommend checking out this novelist’s unique style and excellent stories.