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National Book Award Nominated American Born Chinese
Article by Scott Tingley, November 18, 2006

“It's easy to become anything you wish…..as long as you're willing to forfeit your soul.” pg. 29.

Are you interested in getting your teenager reading National Book Award nominated book? Are you interested in getting your teen to read something that will make them think and maybe even…wait for it…..TALK TO YOU ABOUT SOMETHING (actual results may vary)? Have I got a book for you.

Artist/writer Gene Yang has created a thought provoking, bright and beautiful comic work that I believe will be around for a while. It is not a confusing book at all, but explaining what it is about has proven to be a bit difficult, so instead of trying any longer to get it right I think I will just quote Yang himself:

With American Born Chinese , I'm trying to say something about my experiences growing up as an Asian-American by telling three different stories. The first stars the Monkey King, folk hero of Chinese legend; the second recounts the struggles of a Chinese-American boy trying to fit into a predominantly white suburb; and the third is a sit-com starring everybody's favorite racial stereotype, Cousin Chin-Kee.

A.B.C. is a very strong work from a talented, new-to-me writer / artist. This is a book that you might want to read completely before handing over to your teen. And if your teen has discovered it on his/her own, you might want to read it after they are finished it. I say this because of the theme of racism that runs throughout each of the three stories. The subtler aspects of racism present in the book as well as the stereotypical image of Cousin Chin-Kee, with his bright yellow skin, buck teeth, and heavy accent (“Chin-Kee so solly, so vely solly”) would make a good opportunity for discussion. I'm not sure that I can really recommend it in use for high schools for the same reason. If To Kill A Mockingbird is being banned from schools, A.B.C. would be a hard sell, which is a shame. That is going to have to be the judgement call of the school. You can get a sense of the content from the exerpt found HERE.

This can be found in comic stores, bookstores (I've seen it there myself) and online. 16.95 US, 22.95 Can. It is a full colour book released by First Second Books .

Visit Yang's website at humblecomics.com

Any questions or comments, contact me at comicsintheclassroom @ gmail.com


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