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    “American Born Chinese” Literature Review

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    America is a nation filled with many immigrants that come from multiple regions acrossthe world. With many immigrants coming to America, they meet a vastly different cultural lifestyle than their home countries. With that, many American also view the outside cultures coming into America as strange as well. When Americans try to make sense of other cultures, they create stereotypes for each culture to try to understand the variety of minorities. However this may include negative views of other cultures to be included in the stereotypes as well. We look at how the characters in American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang handle the racial stereotypes they face as they live their daily lives in the american suburbs. As we go through American Born Chinese, we discover what types of stereotypes America see in the Asian culture of Asian immigrants coming to America.

    The novel follows the stories of characters with similar stories of being outcast or racially profiled. Jin Wang, a young Chinese-American boy whose family moves from Chinatown in San Francisco to an American suburb; Chin-Kee, Danny’s cousin who comes and visits America every year and provides and pure example of American stereotypes of Asian culture; and Wei-Chen who recently moved from Taiwan into America and has to deal with blending in with American culture. BBB Each of these characters shows examples or scenarios in which these characters face the racial stereotypes that they go through with everyday school life. When Jin Wang transferred into his new school, we were the second Asian students to come there.Suzy was another Asian student in the class and people started to pair them even though they never met before or have anything in common. To avoid the stereotyped pairing they “avoided each other as much as possible” (Yang 31). When Wei-Chen arrives from Taiwan, Jin immediately tries to distance himself from him as well to avoid being grouped in with the Asian stereotypes from other students. Jin wanted to be seen as Jin and not another Asian kid that everyone made fun of. However Jin and Wei-Chen soon became friends with having lots of things in common. Danny seems to be a popular kid at his school, but when his cousin Chin-Kee arrives from China for his yearly visit, Danny must bring him to school with him. Later, we learn that Chin-Kee’s totally exaggerated “Chinese” behavior has embarrassed Danny to the point that he has already been forced to change schools three times within one year. All three characters represent the experiences of Chinese-Americans living in the American culture where they are a small minority. Their experiences also speak to kids who feel they don’t belong, whether they are attending a new school or putting up with embarrassing family members, or kids who wish they could be someone else, someone taller, or shorter, or smarter, or more handsome. At the end of the novel, the three stories converge in a surprising conclusion, one that reminds us to accept ourselves as we are, rather than trying to change our basic nature to fit in.

    As much as the public is informed of the efforts to combat racism in today’s world, Gene Luen Yang proves in his graphic novel American Born Chinese that racism exists at considerable strength today. Through three intertwining stories, Yang demonstrates the ostracization and fear alien cultures receive from a so- called “normal” society, where those who blend in are accepted. His goal remains to prove the statement that “Racism detriments ego, degrades the identity of cultures and individuals, and leads to a forced assimilation under the thumb of the so-called normal public. BBB When Jin tries to becomes someone he’s not, Danny, he foregoes his culture and heritage just to blend in with everyone else. In an article by April Dawn Paris, she says that “Transformations can be both positive or negative… Negative transformations in this book are associated with feelings of anger or shame. They are attempts to assimilate… they require you to “forfeit your soul”. The positive transformation… are related to acts of kindness and selflessness… leaves a person’s soul intact and helps guide others on their journey.” (Paris 18). What Paris means to say when reading the article is that, transformations aren’t meant to hide your true self or become “normal” in American society. Transformations are meant to be a way for someone to mature and grow up to become a better person than they are now.

    Think of Chin-Kee as Jin’s/Danny’s worst fears come alive. He represents everything they

    don’t want to be associated with the idea of the ‘chinky’ Chinese. We’re talking all kinds of stereotypes here, including things like, bad English, yellow skin, slanted eyes, long queue, buck teeth and ‘model minority’ behavior like being smart in every subject. Because Chin-Kee represents all the ridiculous stereotypes that haunt Chinese Americans. He also reflects back to the reading audience the racist nature of American popular culture. Multiple shows and movies portray Asin people in ways I mentioned above and nobody was outraged by the representation back then. Now people are starting to realize the racist nature of some old shows and are better representing minorities in a better light. That title introduces Chin-Kee as a fantasy too, a fantasy produced by American pop culture. Chin-Kee is useful though, Since Chin-Kee is so clearly Chinese while Danny is so clearly white, you’ve got to wonder how they could ever be real cousins. Is Chin-Kee a family friend? An adopted cousin? Nope, it’s not only Chin-Kee who’s fake, because he’s actually Monkey. It’s Danny, who’s actually Jin, but the only way we can get to this revelation of who Chin-Kee really is in relation to Danny is for the two to confront each other, which they do. Chin-Kee outdoes himself so much that Danny’s only reaction is to match Chin-Kee’s outsize behavior with his own outsize rage.the Monkey king reassures Jin that it’s ok to be who you are and tells Jin that, “[he] would have saved [himself] from five hundred year’s imprisonment beneath a mountain of rock had [he] only realized how good it is to be a monkey” (Yang 223). So Chin-Kee’s main purpose isn’t just to make us cringe and confront our own racist stereotypes about Chinese people; he’s really in the book to force Danny to become his true self, Chinese American Jin.

    American Born Chinese shows how America has views which portrays Asian immigrants with racial stereotypes that tarnish the reputation of any Asian immigrant who moves to America and has to grow accustomed to the vastly different cultural world they now live in. Gene Luen Yang wanted people to know how it was like to experience the other end of the stereotyping and how it can affect young minorities into becoming something their not or making rash decisions to become like everyone else. He wanted to show that becoming someone your not, just to become a “normal” in American society, can lead you down a path that will only harsh and difficult as you further ignore your heritage and force your past to be forgotten. Transformations should come from wanting to do good and trying to be helpful to others who are in a similar state as you are. American Born Chinese wants everyone to accept who they are and be proud of where they come from.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    “American Born Chinese” Literature Review. (2021, Nov 15). Retrieved from

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