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Review: "American Born Chinese," by Gene Yang


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This is an engaging graphic novel that combines fantasy and realism in a comic book format. This piece delivers on all levels. For any YA who has an open mind, some wit and wants to learn about growing up, this book addresses many different topics. Schoolyard bullies, friendship, prejudice and the complexities of multi-culturalism are all addressed. Another section embraces myth and legend in a very cartoonish fashion, although I feel that I have not enough knowledge of Chinese myth and legend to throw stones at what may be accurate retelling of some Chinese lore.

It feels as if parts of the book are completely true and honest and attempts to resolve the difficulties of assimilation through an acceptance and embrace of one's own cultural background. It has humor in abundance, strikes some really true notes and can be read in its entirety in about a half hour. If you know a smart kid who can deal with a bit of crazy absurdity this would be a great read.

I wonder about the competition for the Printz award in 2007. Not that "American Born Chinese" does not deserve the award. Perhaps the prize committee was struck by the unique nature of this book. Since this is my first reading in my effort to read all the Printz awards since 2000 there is no way for me to make a comparison. I liked this book enough to make a solid recommendation. There are good topics here, very discussable. If I had a high ability English class or a low ability English class this book would work. Of course, in the modern world of Common Core it's very unlikely that such a book could ever be used within a curriculum framework, although it out to be in all middle school libraries.