The A.B.C. of Identity

I told myself I wasn’t going to read another graphic novel for a while, and here I am.

A Review of American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang — 3 out of 5

On the outside I look the part: nice and white, just how America likes ’em. Growing up, though, I didn’t have the easiest time fitting in. Both of my parents are from Eastern Europe, and though I was born here, I didn’t learn English until I went off to Kindergarten. As the years past I acclimated, but culturally I still felt like quite the outsider. My family, my friends, my church community…all Romanian.

All that to say, I sympathized with Jin’s story, one of leaving your cultural safe zone and trying to fit. I remember kids making fun of my lunches or how I pronounced things. Yang does great job of using three different stories to help readers remember the importance of staying true to who you are, or you’ll end up losing yourself trying to fight it.

I feel like I enjoyed this graphic novel more than most. The illustrations added to the story without completely taking it over. There was a good balance of sweet and serious. Unfortunately, things went sour towards the end. Since that’s all spoiler-y, read more under the cut. 

“It’s easy to become anything you wish…so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.”

I didn’t like how the three stories came together at the end. Although I wasn’t equally crazy about all of them, what I started to appreciate as three tales about accepting one’s identity felt ridiculous once they intertwined. I could accept a shape-shifting talking monkey better our protagonist wasn’t talking to him like it was an everyday occurrence. I liked his friend Wei-Chen better before I found out he’s some rebel spirit in disguise. Each of these three stories could have been wrapped up nicely, and individually, without any loss to the overall story being told. It’s a bummer my latest foray into graphic novels couldn’t exceed expectations. At least it gave me a break from trudging through Wuthering Heights!

Have any of you read A.B.C.? What were your thoughts on that ending?

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