Tag Archives: Chinese

American Born Chinese – Graphic Novel Book Review

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Color by Lark Pien

Yang creates a mini, modern-day epic about the experiences of Jin, a boy born in American from Chinese immigrant parents.  American Born Chinese garnered many awards, including the American Library Association’s Michael J. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, and appears on many YA top ten lists.

The reader follows him from his first day at a new elementary school through the awkward middle school years. Jin is ostracized by his young classmates because of his race and doesn’t make a true friend until he meets a new classmate, Wei-Chen Sun, who has just immigrated from Taiwan.  Jin struggles with trying to fit into the white culture, especially after he discovers he fancies a white girl named Amelia.  To his dismay, no matter how hard he tries, Jin can never change what skin he’s in.

Parallel to Jin’s story are two other threads in American Born Chinese: a retelling of a popular Chinese folktale about the Monkey King, and look at the life of a white teenager named Danny who endures humiliation every year when his stereotypically off-the-boat cousin Chin-Kee visits from China.  Though disparate in time and place, the three stories all offer characters that are unhappy with who they are born to be, and go to measures to try to reinvent themselves.

American Born Chinese tells a universal story of coming to terms with one’s heritage, and all the baggage that comes along with it.  Moreover, it does it in such a way that is realistic, easy to sympathize with, and sometimes poignant.  Yang and Pien create an inspired combination of text and visuals that literally breaks the barriers of the frames to enhance an already excellent storyline.

This graphic novel is highly recommended for young adult readers.  It was a very quick read (I’m an adult and it took me about an hour to 90 minutes to read), and kept my attention nicely.  The racist remarks may be something to weigh when considering for younger readers, but these comments serve to exaggerate and dispel stereotypes, not to perpetuate them.

Gutter Geek did a thorough review of American Born Chinese here.

Have you read American Born Chinese? What did you think?

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Chinese Cinderella – Book Review

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Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter

by Adeline Yen Mah

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The original Cinderella story dates back to China’s Tang dynasty (618-906) Ye Xian tale.  The heroine was an unwanted stepdaughter who escaped the clutches of her evil stepmother thanks to her own hard work and perseverance.

Like Ye Xian, Adeline (her Chinese given name is Jun-ling) received no tenderness or compassion from her family; both of “their stories may be perceived as talismans against despair” (p. 197).  This autobiography follows Adeline’s personal history beginning with her birth, through her years of emotional abuse in her family’s home, to her adolescent years living as the lone one of her boarding school classmates who receives neither letters nor visitors.  As a child, she didn’t look for pity, she sought only to live unnoticed by her classmates rather than reveal the sad realities of her home life.  Yen Mah intertwines some of her native China with this retelling of her life story: the significance of the Chinese pictorial written language, how children are given names in Westernized Chinese families, and the internal tension experienced by Adeline as a speaker of both English and Chinese.

Chinese Cinderella was written for young adult readers and uses straightforward language and storytelling techniques, albeit with a somewhat formal vocabulary.  The author’s reminiscences of her unhappy childhood awake sympathy in the reader; young readers are drawn to her story, sharing in her hope of a better life as she grows up.  I highly recommend Chinese Cinderella to pre-teens, teens, and adults alike, for Yen Mah’s inspiring personality that radiates from the pages.  Personally, I enjoyed reading Yen Mah’s story thoroughly and I could hardly put it down.  I’m looking forward to reading her full biography, Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter, found in adult libraries.

For more information about Adeline Yen Mah and her great work, visit her official web page here.  There, you can find links to her books, letters from fans, biography, and more.

References:

Yen Mah, A. (1999). Chinese cinderella: the true story of an unwanted daughter. New York: Dell Laurel-Leaf.

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Who’s That Grown-Up Reading a Picture Book?

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Picture books, fantasy novels, and Dr. Seuss all day long.  After my first week on the job as a page in the Children’s department, I’ve noticed that my daily grind affords me the opportunity to handle hundreds of Children’s books every day and grab anything that interests me.  Now that I’m planning to become a librarian, it’s important for me to become more familiar with different books and information sources.  Since I’m considering entering into the world of Children’s librarianship, every kiddie book I read is a step closer to professional excellence….or at least a chance to relive happy literary memories of my childhood.

Yesterday, I noticed the intriguing title How Pizza Came To Queens by Dayal Kaur Khalsa.  After a five minute battle with the self-service checkout computer,  I took it home and read the picture book over lunch.  The story was adorable, and made me feel like a little kid again.  I was rapt anxiety, faced with a New York where pizza did not [yet] exist.  Thanks to the curiosity and assistance of four young girls and the wisdom and generosity of Mrs. Pellegrino, pizza is now a popular lunch standby in our great borough of Queens.

Today, I found The Red Thread by Grace Lin, a touching fairy tale that explains the bond of love between adopted children and their adoptive parents.   Ms. Lin dedicated the book “to all children adopted, the parents who loved them but could not keep them, and the parents who traveled far to find them.”  She writes, “There is an ancient Chinese belief that an invisible, unbreakable red thread connects all those who are destined to be together.”  Isn’t this true?  We’re all con This story can help to show children how important they are to their parents and how very much they are loved, no matter where they came from.

So, as I continue working in the Children’s department, I’ll be on the lookout for literature that either seems new and interesting, or that played a part in my own childhood.   Recommendations will be gladly accepted!  Next on the menu: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling.

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