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73 pages 2 hours read

Gene Luen Yang

American Born Chinese

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

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Themes

Otherness and the Effects of Racism and Discrimination

Jin, Wei-Chen, and Suzy all feel a sense of “otherness” due to their Asian heritage, and that otherness makes them particularly vulnerable to racist attacks on their identity. Otherness is a sense of being different in terms of one’s self-image, and this experience can stem from being a member of a racial minority as well as other cultural identifiers. As young people of Asian heritage, they comprise a minority within the context of their predominantly White student body. The parallel story of the Monkey King, who is introduced as he is rejected from a dinner party for being different from the other deities, demonstrate that otherness and racism can take many different forms; rejection and injustice exists everywhere, not just in the world of young humans.

Jin, Wei-Chen, and Suzy are all bullied for their Asian heritage by a handful of students who represent the mainstream White culture at their school. In elementary school, other students make assumptions about Jin and Suzy that reflect their stereotyped thinking concerning Asian culture. For example, Jin’s parents are Chinese and Suzy’s parents are Japanese, but the students assume they are siblings, reflecting a widespread racist belief in the notion that all Asians look alike, no matter their country of origin.

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By Gene Luen Yang