Tuesday, March 10, 2009

American Born Chinese...random thoughts

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

To be perfectly honest, this book is so incredible that I'm pretty much at a loss for words. I really don't know how to do this book justice...and I really wish I did, because if I could convince even one person who hasn't yet read this book to do so, it would make me very happy.

The book is three stories in one, told in alternating chapters. The first story is that of the Monkey King, a Chinese legend. The Monkey King of Flower-Fruit Mountain isn't happy being a monkey, and he works very hard trying to turn himself into a god, The Great Sage, Equal of Heaven. Second, there is the story of Jin Wang, who moves from his apartment near San Francisco's Chinatown and finds himself the only Chinese-American kid at Mayflower Elementary. It's not an easy place to find oneself. And finally, there is the story of Danny, an American teenager. Each year his Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, comes to visit for a few weeks, and Danny finds his life so ruined that he transfers schools. Chin-Kee is the epitome of a negative Chinese stereotype. Eventually the three stories mesh into one. And maybe I'm just slow on the uptake, but the way this happened took me by surprise...it was simply brilliant.

In fact, the whole book was simply brilliant. Deceptively simple to read. For it is truly so sophisticated. It contains so much depth. To be perfectly honest, I suspect that if I read it again, I would discover things I'd missed. And if I read it again after that, I would find even more. The book addresses many themes: identity, racism, friendship, self-acceptance, and how these things play off of one another, how they affect one another. It was humorous, and it was painful. Bottom line, it was amazing.


Want to read what others thought?

Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot
Alison at So Many Books, So Little Time
Chris at Stuff As Dreams Are Made On
Ali at Worducopia
Kailana at The Written World
Joy at Thoughts of Joy

And if you've read and reviewed this book, please feel free to leave a link in the comments, and I'll add it here. Thanks.


Melody said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Debi! I've this book listed on BookMooch but I think I'll have to buy it now! :D

Trish said...

I had heard kind of mixed reviews on this one, so I had put it further down on my "graphic novels to check out" list, but I'm definitely going to have to bump it back up! My reading of the Chinese or Chinese-American culture has been so limited--this one sounds like a perfect remedy.

Kim L said...

I almost bought this book today with credit card points, but then I ran out of points. Oh well, I may have to get it from the library. Thanks for recommending!

Chris said...

Wasn't it wonderful?! I'm so glad that you enjoyed it too Debi! Is Annie going to read it now? I want to know what she things too....I just want to know what everyone thinks of this one because I loved it so much. And I'm right there with you on the ending...it took me completely by surprise too. He blended the stories together so well! I can't wait to read more by him.

Nymeth said...

Deceptively simple indeed. I'm so glad you loved it, Debi. (But then, of course you would.)

Grad said...

Okay,I'm convinced. I'm off to the bookstore today for a book club assignment, and I'll look for this one too. Good post.

Carl V. said...

I love 'deceptively simple' things. Whether they be stories or art, or a combination, there are things that look and feel like they were simple to create and yet they are so powerful in the experience that you realize just how masterful the creator was. I haven't heard of this one at all, but it certainly is now on my radar.

Kailana said...

This book was really well done! I have seen a couple reviews where people said it was 'too simple' and I was thinking "Did you actually read the book?" There's a lot going on. It makes for a good read. :)

Dawn said...

I've never heard of this book, but as always you make it sound so interesting to read!

take care,

Susan said...

Thanks for this post, Debi. I haven't read much Chinese fiction, so this sounds interesting. Another graphic novel to read! No, I cannot join the Graphic Novel challenge, I promised myself I would be good this year....but I would qualify if I added this to my pile! lol I've added you to my blogroll. You are hilarious!!!

Eva said...

You've convinced me!

Rich said...

I had no idea you were even reading this book. I am a bad husband.

Ali said...

LOL at Rich's comment. That's the beauty of graphic novels, Rich, she probably read the whole thing while you were taking a shower or something.

Joy said...

Wow - I'm surprised you liked this one that much. For some reason, I didn't think you'd have this reaction. Glad you did, though! :)