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American Born Chinese

What's It About?

Jin, the child of Chinese immigrants, is starting at a new school. He makes new friends, but they bully him and the relationship is difficult for Jin. He meets a kid who recently immigrated from Taiwan, Wei-Chen Sun. Jin takes out his own insecurities in the form of aggression towards this new student. Eventually, they become friends.

Jin develops a crush on a white classmate, and he takes her out on one date, before another white student tells him not to talk to her, based on the fact that Jin isn't white.

The book uses several different narratives to tell the story. This first one we see other than Jin's day to day life is the story of the Monkey King, a figure from classical Chinese mythology. The Monkey King wants to be more than a monkey, so he tries to learn as much as he can to become powerful and immortal. The other gods discriminate against the Monkey King.

The third narrative is "Everyone Ruvs Chin-Kee," a fake sitcom featuring a racist stereotype of Chinese people. Danny, a white teenager, struggles when his "cousin" Chin-Kee visits from China and proceeds to be the living emodiment of a harmful stereotype.

The three narratives come together at the end to show Jin's ultimate journey to self acceptance, and we see that Wei-Chen was in fact the son of the Monkey King, sent to observe the behavior of humans. The Monkey King encourages Jin to embrace his heritage. Jin, who has been represented as the white Danny through the sitcom narrative, transforms back into himself.

What Did We Like?

"I really liked how it infused the Chinese mythology and gave it new meaning. And I like how he uses the stereotypes to eventually tell a positive story, it had a purpose." - Emma

"I liked how they tied all the stories together in the end, that was chill." - Katie

What Didn't We Like?

"I might have started it out with Jin instead of the Monkey King, since he is the main character of the story." - Katie

Who Is It For?

We think it is for older readers, middle grade and up. Younger readers might not understand the stereotypes shown in the story or the harm they can cause.

Is It Good for Book Clubs?

"Yes, because you could talk a lot about the book." - Eric

"I think it depends on who is in your group. If you have people who can relate to the immigrant story, or have encountered harmful stereotypes, they might have more to say about the story." - Emma

You Could Also Read...

  • Tomboy by Liz Prince
  • Journey to the West (the story of the Monkey King)