American Born Chinese

I opened ABC to read without realizing what kind of book it is.  It’s a graphic novel.  I didn’t even start to read because I thought, “Ick, graphic novels are not my thing and I really don’t enjoy them.”  When I mentioned that I had tried to read it in my Young Adult Literature (YAL) class and said that I really didn’t want to read it, I was challenged that that’s precisely why I should read the book.  It’s different and not something I would ordinarily read.  So I tried again.

It was….interesting.  Some parts I liked and some parts slightly disturbed me.  I was never quite sure what audience the author was targeting…sometimes 12-13 year olds, sometimes 16 or 17.  Some of the content was just not appropriate for the younger age.  The book tapped into spiritual themes, but just that: spiritual.  Scripture was essentially spoken by God, but in the context of Buddhism and “kung fu” spirituality.  Some Buddhist deities were depicted, including Yama, the deity of the underworld.  These were all points from the book I disliked that I pondered after I read.  These aren’t highly processed thoughts at all, just some commentary.

I liked the way the author wove together three separate stories of Chinese legend, a Chinese boy, and an Causasian boy.  A main point of the book is how many Chinese (and Asian in general) children  are often teased and ridiculed by others (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not).  Teachers and students alike make rude and unpleasant stereotypes about the Chinese boy, Jin, pronouncing his name wrong and making ridiculous assumptions about his life.  The book also touches on how irritated Jin becomes with his Chinese heritage and how ashamed Danny (the Caucasian boy) is of his Chinese relatives.  The author shows how difficult it can be to struggle with these issues.

Overall, I think I liked it.  And I think I didn’t.  Essentially, I feel in-between about American Born Chinese. I still dislike graphic novels, but I also like the stories about Chinese culture.  I shall have to think on it more.

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