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American Born Chinese: Graphic Novel and TV Series on Identity

Gene Luen Yang, image courtesy of Amazon

American Born Chinese is based on a book. It is a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, first published in 2006. The book tells the story of Jin Wang, a Chinese-American teenager who struggles with his identity in a predominantly white American culture. The book is divided into three parts, each telling a different story about Jin’s journey of self-discovery.

The book’s first part is a retelling of the Chinese folktale Journey to the West. In this part, Jin is represented by the Monkey King, a powerful but rebellious figure constantly seeking to prove himself. The second part of the book follows Jin as he deals with the arrival of his cousin Chin-Kee, a stereotypical Chinese character continually making fun of Jin. The book’s third part brings all three stories together as Jin comes to terms with his identity and his place in the world.

American Born Chinese was a critical and commercial success. It was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Awards in the Young People’s Literature category. It won the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award, the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album: New, and the Publishers Weekly Comics Week Best Comic of the Year. The book has also been adapted into a television series that premiered on Disney+ in 2023.

What are some lessons from the book?

  • Be proud of your heritage. Jin Wang struggles with his identity as a Chinese-American teenager. He is constantly torn between his Chinese heritage and his American upbringing. His classmates also bully him for being different. However, Jin eventually learns to be proud of his heritage and to embrace his Chinese identity.
  • Don’t let stereotypes define you. Jin is also constantly confronted with stereotypes about Chinese people. He is often seen as being weak, nerdy, and short. However, Jin eventually learns to challenge these stereotypes and to show that he is just as capable as anyone else.
  • Find your path. His parents constantly pressure Jin to follow a certain way. They want him to become a doctor or a lawyer, but Jin has other dreams. He eventually learns to find his path in life and follow his goals.
  • It’s important to have friends who support you. Jin’s friends, Wei-Chen and Christine, help him to accept his identity and to be proud of his Chinese heritage. They are there for him when he struggles and help him see the good in himself.
  • It’s okay to be different. Jin is often bullied for being different. However, he eventually learns to embrace his differences and see them as strengths. He realizes that being different is what makes him unique and special.

It is a story about identity, culture, and acceptance. It is a story that everyone should read, regardless of their background.

The Television Series 

American Born Chinese premiered on Disney+ on May 24, 2023. It is an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name by Gene Luen Yang. The series follows the story of Jin Wang, a Chinese-American teenager who struggles with his identity in a predominantly white American culture.

The series is created by Kelvin Yu and stars Ben Wang as Jin Wang, Jimmy Liu as Wei-Chen, and Daniel Wu as Sun Wukong. The series has been praised for its representation of Asian Americans and its exploration of themes of identity, culture, and family.

A synopsis of the American Born Chinese television series.

American Born Chinese is a coming-of-age story about Jin Wang, a Chinese-American teenager who struggles to find his place in the world. Jin is constantly torn between his Chinese heritage and his American upbringing. His classmates also bully him for being different.

One day, Jin meets Wei-Chen, a new exchange student from China. Wei-Chen is everything that Jin is not: confident, outgoing, and fluent in English. Jin is initially jealous of Wei-Chen, but the two boys eventually become friends.

As Jin and Wei-Chen spend more time together, Jin learns more about his Chinese heritage. He also starts to accept himself for who he is. However, Jin’s journey is not without its challenges. He still faces racism and bullying, and he must learn to deal with his parents’ expectations.

In the end, Jin comes to terms with his identity and place in the world. He realizes he can be both Chinese and American and does not have to choose one or the other. He also learns that he is not alone in his struggles and that others can help him.

Some commonly asked questions about the series:

Is the series faithful to the book?

The series is generally faithful to the book, but there are some changes. For example, the series expands on the character of Wei-Chen and gives him a more active role in the story. The series also adds new characters, such as Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion.

Is the series appropriate for children?

The series is rated TV-PG, so it is appropriate for older children. However, some scenes may be disturbing to younger viewers, such as the bullying that Jin experiences.

What are the themes of the series?

The series explores themes of identity, culture, family, and acceptance. It shows how Jin struggles to find his place as a Chinese-American teenager. The series also shows how Jin’s family and friends help him to accept his identity and to be proud of his Chinese heritage.

What are the strengths of the series?

The series is well-acted, well-written, and visually stunning. The cast is diverse, and the characters are relatable. The series also does a great job of exploring the themes of identity and culture in a thought-provoking way.

What are the weaknesses of the series?

Some viewers have criticized the series for being too slow-paced. Others have said that the series does not do enough to address the issue of racism. However, these criticisms are minor and do not detract from the series’ overall quality.

Who is the target audience for the series?

The series is aimed at a general audience, but it is particularly relevant to Asian Americans and people interested in exploring themes of identity and culture.

What are the plans for the series?

The series has been renewed for a second season, which is set to premiere in 2024. The second season will explore new themes and introduce new characters.

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