American Born Chinese: Will the Real Monkey King Please Stand Up?

Ahhh. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a graphic novel. I was inspired to finally post about this because I finally got my sorry butt around to reading Justice;  a twelve-issue limited series comic book published bimonthly by DC Comics from August 2005 through June2007, written by Alex Ross and Jim Krueger, with art also by Ross and Doug Braithwaite.

It’s super good by the way, but will test the limits of your knowledge of superheroes.

But it also brings about some really great questions; such as, “are superheroes good for society; or is it a crutch that will permanently cripple us if we lean on it too much? What are the responsibilities that a superhero has to society, and vice versa?”

Anyways, those are questions for a different day. As well as a post about the damnable Game of Thrones series, which I hold solely responsible for the fact that I haven’t been posting a lot. Anyways; this is a book I wouldn’t have read first off because I tend to become more emotionally involved with books about Asian American culture, simply because my mom is Asian and thus, making me an Asian American. It’s not that I take things personal, but I always feel like I’ve failed as a human being when I confess to my friends that I don’t know shit about making sushi. And yes, that’s a Japanese thing and my mom/family is from Singaporeand thus I should feel okay about this, but my eyes still crinkle up when I smile in a way that makes me feel like I should intrinsically know how to properly lay a piece of raw fish on a pile of fragrant rice. (I AM, by the way, VERY good at cooking rice).

Anyhow, I had to read this because it came highly recommended by a professor that I LOVE. And thus I start out on this journey.

Okay, so first of all, there are three big story arcs here. We have the story of the Monkey King; a popular figure from Chinese mythology, Jin Wang, a newcomer to a school in which he is the only Asian American student, and Danny/his cousin Chin-Kee (this one is kind of obvious) who is an obnoxious, super stereotyped Asian who haunts Danny’s existence.

These three stories all focus sharply on identity and discovery and merge in this wonderful, climatic way in which you can put down the book, lean back in your chair, and sigh a sigh of happiness concerning who you are, and where you’ve come from. This book is a quick read. I think I read my copy in an hour or less. But the lessons in it are something that have been playing on my heartstrings my whole life. How does one construct an identity outside of a cultural assumption? Does one embrace it, or hide from it? Do I speak Chinese in front of my friends, do I put my brass Buddha somewhere where people can see it? Or do I hide it all and construct myself as a removed identity; simply to be known as “Pattie?” I’ve gone from one extreme to another in life; and I think I’ve settled on a sort of happy medium; in which I can say, yes, I’m half Asian, I know how to make a mean stir-fry, and sometimes I write about home in Singapore. But I also love a good Slurpee, I’m pushing 5’10 in height, and my favorite movie is Saint Ralph (about a Catholic boys school in Canada, and running. Yea, running. You should go watch it right now.)


About Angela

Editor, bookbinder, and writer.

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