‘American Born Chinese’ written by Gene Luen Yang is actually a novel that has been treated like a graphic comic (Yang and Pien, 2006). The graphic novel has three basic stories, which start out in three different directions at first, creating much confusion about the storyline of the novel: but as and when the novel progresses, the three stories start merging with each other: we get to understand the connection between these three plots. The plots slowly progress in parallel to each other, until they form the baseline of the novel. The graphic novel has three main characters namely the Monkey King, Jin Wang and Danny. Monkey king the legendary monkey ruler, his empire being the whole of Flower Fruit Mountain. On the other hand, Jin Wang, is a Chinese born American citizen who is trying very hard to adapt to the new culture of the United States. The final character of the novel, Danny, is an American citizen: an all-American kid who has a cousin who visits America annually: the cousin being a Chinese kid named Chin-Kee, whom Danny thinks to be obnoxious. As and when the novel progresses, the readers find themselves switching between the three story lines, which initially seem to be not related to each other: however they slowly become one with a common theme (novelinks, 2015).
One of the key plots of this graphic novel is the search for identity that each and every character is going through: the driving force of the novel is the continuous search of his or her own self that the characters portray through their activities. The monkey king himself wants to be included in the heaven and be treated like the other deities: be respected and worshipped. But he finds that to the others he is just a monkey and is being treated just like that. Jin Wang, the Chinese born kid is trying hard to adapt to the new culture around him and to bring a balance between his own past and present, but find that the more he puts efforts into it, the more he gets excluded from the American society because of his ethnicity. Danny suffers from an identity crisis as his cousin Chin-Kee keeps on ruining the image and the identity that he had established in his current school: thus forcing him to change schools each year. The search for identity is one of very basic activities that perhaps all of us go on performing throughout our lifetimes.
The second theme of this novel revolves around the strategies and policies that the society and our culture use so as to assign stereotypes. The stories of Jin Wang and Danny provide much insight in to the ways in which the Chinese are perceived by the American society and the ways in which it tries to emulate the same concept in others (University E-Portfolio, 2015). The novel graphically depicts the dangers that lie in the concept of assigning stereotypes to other people just because they belong to a different ethnic race and to their culture because of the differences in various customs that are practiced by them. Chin-Kee, Danny’s obnoxious Chinese cousin is perhaps the greatest representation of this fact: novel depicts him in such a way that shows that the reader finds him to be an embodiment of all those stereotypes that the American society has about the people from China and their culture. This entire character, starting from the appearance to the mannerisms that the portrays, has been created by the author to emulate the stereotypes that is prevalent in the America society regarding the Asian culture, and the harm that such stereotypes cause to the society in general.
However, the central theme of this entire novel is the search for acceptance. All the characters of the novel are actually finding a way in which he would be accepted in the society and be treated as an equal. The author himself has stated this very fact in the back cover of the novel: according to him all the characters of this novel are trying hard just to ‘fit in’. The monkey king is trying hard to fit in the heaven and be treated just like the other deities, Jin Wang is trying hard to fit in to the American culture and be accepted by his classmates and Danny is putting his efforts in maintaining the acceptance that he had once established.
This graphic novel depict some of the very common issues that people all over the world face at some or other point in their lives. The author emphasizes on the concept of acceptance: coming in terms with one’s own identity might be the first step towards self acceptance, which would no doubt be helpful in easing out the students to handle their own socio-cultural and/ or other stereotypes.
- Novelinks, (2015). [online] Available at: https://novelinks.org/uploads/Novels/AmericanBornChinese/Concept%20Analysis.pdf [Accessed 29 Jun. 2015].
- University E-Portfolio, (2015).American Born Chinese Essay. [online] University E-Portfolio. Available at: https://sydneycarreonuniversityportfolio.weebly.com/american-born-chinese-essay.html [Accessed 29 Jun. 2015].
- Yang, G. and Pien, L. (2006).American born Chinese. New York: First Second.