Review in 6/12/06 Publisher's Weekly
As alienated kids go, Jin Wang is fairly run-of-the-mill: he eats lunch by himself in a corner of the school-yard, gets picked on by bullies and jocks and develops a sweat-inducing crush on a pretty classmate. And, oh, yes, his parents are from Taiwan. This much-anticipated, affecting store about growing up different is more than just the story of a Chinese-American childhood: it's a fable for every kid born into a body and a life they wished they could escape. The fable is filtered through some very specific cultural icons: the much-beloved Monkey King, a figure familiar to Chinese kids the world over, and a buck-toothed amalgamation of racist stereotypes named Chin-Kee. Jin's hopes and humiliations might be mirrored in Chin-Kee's destructive glee or the Monkey King's struggles to come to terms with himself, but each character's expressions and actions are always perfectly familiar. True to its origin as a Web comic, this story's clear, concise lines and expert coloring are deceptively simple yet expressive. Even when Yang slips in an occasional Chinese ideogram or myth, the sentiments he's depicting need no translation. Yang accomplishes the remarkable feat of practicing what he preaches with this book: accept who you are and you'll already have reached out to others. (Sept.)
Starred Review in September 2006 issue of School Library Journal
Graphic novels that focus on nonwhite characters are exceedingly rare in American comics. Enter American Born Chinese, a well-crafted work that aptly explores issues of self-image, cultural identity, transformation, and self-acceptance. In a series of three linked tales, the central characters are introduced: Jin Wang, a teen who meets with ridicule and social isolation when his family moves from San Francisco's Chinatown to an exclusively white suburb; Danny, a popular blond, blue-eyed high school jock whose social status is jeopardized when his goofy, embarrassing Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, enrolls at his high school; and the Monkey King who, unsatisfied with his current sovereign, desperately longs to be elevated to the status of a god. Their stories converge into a satisfying coming-of-age novel that aptly blends traditional Chinese fables and legends with bathroom humor, action figures, and playground politics. Yang's crisp line drawings, linear panel arrangement, and muted colors provide a strong visual complement to the textual narrative. Like Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Laurence Yep's Dragonwings, this novel explores the impact of the American dream on those outside the dominant culture in a finely wrought story that is an effective combination of humor and drama.
Review in 9/1/06 Booklist
Gr. 10-12. With vibrant colors and visual panache, indie writer-illustrator Yang (Rosary Comic Book) focuses on three characters in tales that touch on facets of Chinese American life. Jin is a boy faced with the casual racism of fellow students and the pressure of his crush on a Caucasian girl; the Monkey King, a character from Chinese folklore, has attained great power but feels he is being held back because of what the gods perceive as his lowly status; and Danny, a popular high-school student, suffers through an annual visit from his cousin Chin-Kee, a walking, talking compendium of egregious Chinese stereotypes. Each of the characters is flawed but familiar, and, in a clever postmodern twist, all share a deep, unforeseen connection. Yang helps the humor shine by using his art to exaggerate or oppose the words, creating a synthesis that marks an accomplished graphic storyteller. The stories have a simple, engaging sweep to them, but their weighty subjects — shame, racism, and friendship — receive thoughtful, powerful examination.
Review in 9/1/06 VOYA
Three seemingly unrelated stories blend into a memorable tale of growing up Chinese American. The book begins with the ancient fable of the Monkey King, the proud leader of the monkeys. He is punished for entering the god's dinner party by being buried under a mountain for five hundred years. Second in the story of Jin Wang, the son of immigrants struggling to retain his Chinese identity while longing to be more Americanized. The fnial story is that of Cousin Chin-Kee, an amalgamation of the worst Chinese stereotypes. Chin-Kee yearly visits his all-American cousin Danny, causing so much embarrassment that Danny must chage schools. The final chapter unifies the three tales into one version of what it means to be American-born Chinese.
This graphic novel first appeared as a long running web comic on http://www.moderntales.com, where it enjoyed an enthusiastic following. The artwork is clean and distinctive, with varying panel styles and inking that is visually appealing. The Cousin Chin-Kee story line is extremely hyperbolic and at times difficult to read, as it embraces the most extreme negative Chinese stereotypes, but it displays some of the difficulties in perception faced by young Chinese Americans. This graphic novel could be especially cathartic for teens and adults of Asian descent, but people of any ethnicity would find themselves reflected in the universal themes of self-acceptance, peer pressure, and racial tensions. This book is recommended for libraries serving teens and adults, particularly those enjoying graphic novels. —Sherrie Willians
Review in the November 2006 issue of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Raised in San Francisco's Chinatown, Jin Wang moves to a new neighborhood and a new school in third grade, where he quickly realizes that he's an oddball among Anglo-American classmates. Further complicating his life is the arrival of a Taiwanese student who latches onto him for companionship and sticks like a burr on through junior high. The picture of dorkiness in his huge eyeglasses, Robo Happy shirt, hiked-up pants, and cowlick, Wei-Chen Sun turns into Jin's closest friend and greatest embarrassment, both a cheerleader and a stumbling block to Jin's efforts to fit into mainstream school life and win the blonde girl of his dreams. Weaving around and ultimately converging with the seriocomic story of Jin's coming-of-age problems are two related tales that comment on issues of identity. In the first, the Chinese legendary Monkey Kong, banished from the gods' dinner party because he is a monkey, perfects his skills and disciplines to the point where he claims to have transcended his monkeyness. As ""The Great Sage, Eq