‘American Born Chinese’ by Gene Luen Yang & Lark Pien [Comic Review]

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One of the first things I like to learn about a culture is their folklore. I think it is a fun way of learning about what is important to a group of people along with what they fear or what bothers them about their world.

When I picked up this comic it was because it was recommended to me by a writer I know and I had no idea what to expect. What I got was a wonderful mix of mythology, analysis of stereotyping, and a heart-wrenching coming of age narrative.

The art style is fun and switches ever so slightly depending on which part of the narrative is the focus.

WARNING: I’m assuming you’ve read the thing so if you haven’t and you keep reading this post anyway, please don’t get mad that I talk about spoilers! Also thanks for reading this at all, okay bye.

I can’t remember reading through this comic and being more interested in one of the three plot lines more than the others–and this would alternate depending on what was happening–but at some point it was all intriguing for different reasons. I liked the story involving the monkey king because that’s a piece of mythology I know a bit about and there was something very playful about it. Then there was the “main” plot line where the reader follows the protagonist in the “real” world. I was very sympathetic towards the protagonist so I really wanted to get back to this part of the story just to check up on him.

However, at some point, things started to get intense all round and it kind of snuck up on me. Suddenly, I realised that I was curled up under a blanket, frantically flipping through pages because I needed to know what happened in all the the plot lines.

Then the bombshell: it was the same plot line the whole time!

I can’t explain in words the feeling you get when an author does something clever like making you believe you understand the style of storytelling even though they left a bunch of clues that your assumption was wrong, then pulling the world out from under your feet for not figuring it out sooner.

Which I think touches on something I think this comic does really well: balance. There are plenty of lighthearted moments that seem the melt in to tender ones or serious discourse about our world and how we treat people.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This one really got to my heart. I found myself feeling extremely protective and attached to so many of the characters in this narrative, along with admiration for the art style. There’s something timeless in the appearance of the comic that lends itself beautifully to the way the narrative travels through different time periods.

If you want something fun and heartwarming to read than I can’t recommend this enough.

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