73 pages 2 hours read

Gene Luen Yang

American Born Chinese

Fiction | Graphic Novel/Book | Middle Grade | Published in 2006

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Authorial Context: Gene Luen Yang

According to the author biography available in the novel, Gene Luen Yang is a cartoonist and a teacher. Yang was born in California after his parents emigrated from Taiwan to the United States. Though there is no indication that American Born Chinese is autobiographical, readers can infer that Yang draws on his own past experiences as a student, a teacher, and an American-born Asian boy to create the plot line of American Born Chinese. His awareness of the emotional realities of growing up “other” may have had a significant influence on his development of the character of Jin Wang.

Yang’s interest in the spiritual world—as evidenced by the presence of the deities, the character of Tse-Yo-Tzuh, and the moral message of the novel—reflects his Catholic faith. In an interview with Image Journal, Yang describes his mother finding a sense of community in a Catholic church in California, which led to her conversion to Catholicism and to Yang’s upbringing in a Chinese Catholic community. (Mitchell, Mary Kenagy. “A Conversation with Gene Luen Yang.” Image Journal, no. 95, imagejournal.org/article/conversation-gene-luen-yang.) In Catholicism, like other Christian religions, honesty and service are important values. These values are reflected in many of the actions and words of different characters in the novel, including the Monkey King’s son, who poses as Wei-Chen to fulfill his sacred duties; and

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