American Born Chinese

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In American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, the main theme would have to be identity. Despite the graphic novel consisting of three separate storylines, the main characters in the book all share the same issue – being uncomfortable with whom they are and connected to. If one were to simplify and boil the message of the book down to one word, it would be self-acceptance. The morals of identity and self-acceptance are what American Born Chinese is about. Yang’s novel serves as a reminder that we must accept ourselves how we are – not trying to be something or someone we are not.

In the first storyline of the novel, the readers are introduced to the legendary Monkey King – the first of three characters who struggle with self-acceptance. Even though he reigns over Flower Mountain, Monkey is not content by being just a king – he desires to be recognized as a deity. Nevertheless, because other deities see him nothing other than a monkey, he learns as many disciplines as possible to exceed the life of his kind. However, in the end, attempting to be something he is not, he loses control.

The second storyline brings in Jin Wang, a young kid who is enrolled in an American school after coming from China. Not long after his first day of school, Jin finds out just how difficult it is to be one of the few Asians among the many American faces. Afterwards, when another young boy from Taiwan is enrolled as an exchange student named Wei-Chen, Jin at first takes no interest. He doesn’t want to be out in public with other Asian people, but he later realizes the things they have in common and later become the best of friends. In spite of that though, Jin Wang is internally ashamed of his friends’ Asian heritage.

The last storyline presents Danny, an American high school basketball player who has the perfect student life every year until his cousin from China, Chin-Kee, comes for a visit. Just when Danny is about to get a girlfriend, make a sports team, or become popular around...
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