American Born Chinese – Gene Luen Yang
Three interconnected stories explore the ins and outs of racism, loyalty, and trying to be someone you’re not. Jin Wang wants to be an all-American boy, and shuns his fresh-off-the-boat classmate who doesn’t understand how to fit in. Danny is cool and popular, but his over-the-top stereotypical cousin Chin-Kee’s annual visit threatens to ruin Danny’s reputation at school. The Monkey King thinks he’s ready to join the immortal gods in heaven, but discovers he’s still got a lot to learn. When all these stories intersect, the characters must find ways to repair the damage they’ve done to their lives–and must rely on each other to do it.
American Born Chinese is one of my favorite graphic novels EVER, and reading The Eternal Smile recently made me want to go back and re-read this one. Not only is your art bright, simple and funny, but your grasp of storytelling blows me away. The dialogue is hilarious and sincere by turns, and you’ve woven these three stories together with extremely subtle skill. You’re really fantastic at keeping secrets, and at giving a big reveal at just the right moment. This holds true in your visual storytelling, too–it’s quite a talent, and I enjoyed your use of it thoroughly. I also found your skillful use of racism and stereotypes to be both amazing and upsetting at once–Chin-Kee made me really uncomfortable, until I understood what was going on–and I think you’ve pitched everything just right, walking the line between too much discomfort and not enough to get the point across. My very favorite part, though, is the secret surprise last panel on the very last page, half-hidden by the jacket flap. You’re just full of visual cleverness! But you don’t need me to tell you all that–you won about a billion awards for this book, and rightly so. Five stars!