American Born Chinese

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Welcome to America, Jin.

Written and drawn by Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese is a 2006 Graphic Novel dealing with the trials and tribulations of Asians attempting to integrate into American culture.

The story begins by following three characters:

  • The first is The Monkey King (Great Sage Equal of Heaven), who is shamed after being kicked out of a celestial dinner party for being a monkey (and not wearing shoes). He becomes obsessed with earning the respect of the Heavenly Hosts as a result.
  • 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.

Tropes used in American Born Chinese include:

"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.
  • Double Entendre: Several. In the beginning:

"Your peaches are looking especially plump today!"

    • And in Jin's story:

Timmy: (after Amelia raises her hand) What for, Amelia? You can pet my lizard any time you want.
Greg: I don't know, Timmy. You do a pretty good job of that yourself.


Wei Chen: Why is his hair a broccoli?

  • 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).
  • Forceful Kiss
  • Foreign Queasine: Chin-Kee eats fried cats' gizzards. It's also a veiled Take That against Pat Oliphant (see below).
  • 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.
  • Fridge Brilliance: The ending is going to feel like utter Mind Screw until this kicks in.
  • Funny Foreigner: Chin-Kee. Jin's friend Wei Chen Sun is also this to a smaller degree.
  • Gratuitous English: When Wei Chen first appears, he's wearing a shirt that reads "Robot Happy".
  • Hijacked by 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.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Occurs in a sickening way when two kids drop a number of Asian ethnic slurs on the playground.

"Hey, I chink it's getting a little nippy out here."
"You're right! I'm getting gook bumps!"