Written and drawn by Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese is a Graphic Novel dealing with the trials and tribulations of Asians attempting to integrate into American culture.The story begins by following three characters:
The second is Jin Wang, a second-generation immigrant from China heavily influenced by Chinese culture. After moving from San Francisco to a new city, he awkwardly tries to integrate with the all-white students and staff at school, despite their stereotypical view of Asians.
The third is a white American boy named Danny, who is burdened by annual visits of his cousin Chin-Kee, an embodiment of every negative Chinese stereotype ever. Chin-Kee's behavior has forced Danny to change schools in the past to escape association with him.
While each story arc works well on its own and appear to be independent, by the end all three cleverly converge into a climax that affirm the need to embrace one's heritage and Be Yourself.Released in 2006, it was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Awards (becoming the first graphic novel recognized by the National Book Foundation) and won the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award.
This book provides examples of the following tropes:
Actual Pacifist: The monk Wong Lai-Tsao, who won't even defend himself when attacked by monsters who want to eat him.
All-Loving Hero: The monk Wong Lai-Tsao, who puts up with three asshole peasants demanding something out of him, and doesn't complain once. This is the reason why he's chosen for the journey to the west.
Anachronic Order: Switches between the Monkey King story, set thousands of years ago, and two storylines set in modern times.
Deal with the Devil: Used metaphorically; Jin is told by an old herbalist that he can be anything he wants if he sells his soul...
Did You Get a New Haircut?: After the Monkey King uses his shapeshifting powers to look more like a man, one of his monkey subjects remarks that he looks different somehow, and asks if it's a new haircut.
The Ditz: The monkeys of Flower-Fruit-Island are adorably idiotic.
"Would your majesty like a banana?"
Double Consciousness: Played with through the graphic novel medium. The story begins with separate plot threads for Chinese Jin and American Danny. When Jin wishes to become Americanized, he turns into Danny, casting Danny's earlier exploits in a new light.
The Faceless: Jin and Danny's parents always have their faces partially or completely hidden. Subverted when Danny tells his parents that Chin-Kee has left and their faces are finally shown, revealing that Danny's parents are Jin's parents (since Danny and Jin are the same person).
Foreshadowing: The monkey in the biology lab is very fond of Wei-Chen, who can tell at once it's a male and not a female. You could also interpret the Monkey King's urination this way.
Frame Break: When the Monkey King leaves the universe, flying "through the boundaries of reality itself", he breaks through the frame of the panel he's in. The story then switches to one illustration per page with no panel borders until he re-enters reality, at which point normal panels resume.
Funny Foreigner: Chin-Kee. Jin's friend Wei Chen Sun is also this to a smaller degree.
Hijacked by Jesus: In the tale of the Monkey King, all the Buddhist elements are replaced by Christian equivalents.details The Buddha's role is taken by a Grandpa God with a shepherd's crook, the bodhisattvas by heraldic animals who traditionally represent various Christian saints, and the journey to the West ends with the Monkey and his companions being the wise men from the East who visited the baby Jesus.Though not really in an unpleasant way. Done deliberately to show the blending of cultures that produces Jin and which he needs to accept.
Ironic Echo: The Monkey King is barred from a celestial party for not wearing shoes (and being a monkey). When he becomes the disciple of the monk Wong Lai-Tsao, he is told that they do not wear shoes for their journey.
While we don’t see it in the story, the Chinese character that is most likely used for Jin’s name is this 仁, which means “humaneness or kindness”. The character, 仁, is drawn to represent a man connected heaven and earth. Considering that Jin makes a connection with the monkey king and his son and the overall growth Jin has in the story this fits him really well.
Danny who is actually Jin, his name means “God is my judge”. Danny/Jin is taken down a several pegs by the monkey king who is the Emissary of Tze-Yo-Tzuh
Wei-Chen Sun is actually the son of the monkey king. What’s the monkey king’s name in Chinese? Sun Wukong.
Nobody Poops: Averted; after flying across all of existence and passing the bounds of reality, the Monkey King relieves himself by urinating on one of the Five Golden Pillars which turn out to be the fingers of Tze-Yo-Tzuh.
Offhand Backhand: Chin-Kee/The Monkey King does this during the fight scene near the end.
Stop Being Stereotypical: Chin-Kee, who is a perpetual source of embarrassment for Danny, and has caused him to switch schools out of embarrassment several times before. It is, of course, all an act to get Danny to accept his race.