Wednesday, December 19, 2007

American Born Chinese

I’ve been hearing about Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel American Born Chinese for months. The book won the Printz Award, was a National Book Award finalist, and was chosen the best book of the year by Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, etcetera, etcetera. This book has amazing credentials.

Considering all the buzz, all the acclaim, my expectations were so high that perhaps I could not help but be disappointed. The book is good, but is really great?

This is only the fourth graphic novel I’ve read this year, so I am far from an expert on the genre. However, I find both Deogratias and Persepolis far superior in both story and content.

In American Born Chinese, Yang interweaves three seemingly unconnected stories: the main plot about a young Chinese-American boy, Jin Wang; a subplot about an exaggeratedly-Anglo teenager, Danny, and his extra-exaggeratedly-Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee; and the legend of the Monkey King.

The graphic novel is ambitious, addressing identity struggles, racism, and learning to accept one’s heritage. All the topics are important and worth discussing. However, the book lacks subtlety and the ending feels flat. Those two flaws keep a good novel from being a great one.

No comments: