In American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, the main theme would have to be identity. Despite the graphic novel consisting of three separate storylines, the main characters in the book all share the same issue – being uncomfortable with whom they are and connected to. If one were to simplify and boil the message of the book down to one word, it would be self-acceptance. The morals of identity and self-acceptance are what American Born Chinese is about. Yang’s novel serves as a reminder that we must accept ourselves how we are – not trying to be something or someone we are not.Order now
In the first storyline of the novel, the readers are introduced to the legendary Monkey King – the first of three characters who struggle with self-acceptance. Even though he reigns over Flower Mountain, Monkey is not content by being just a king – he desires to be recognized as a deity. Nevertheless, because other deities see him nothing other than a monkey, he learns as many disciplines as possible to exceed the life of his kind. However, in the end, attempting to be something he is not, he loses control.
The second storyline brings in Jin Wang, a young kid who is enrolled in an American school after coming from China. Not long after his first day of school, Jin finds out just how difficult it is to be one of the few Asians among the many American faces. Afterwards, when another young boy from Taiwan is enrolled as an exchange student named Wei-Chen, Jin at first takes no interest. He doesn’t want to be out in public with other Asian people, but he later realizes the things they have in common and later become the best of friends. In spite of that though, Jin Wang is internally ashamed of his friends’ Asian heritage.
The last storyline presents Danny, an American high school basketball player who has the perfect student life every year until his cousin from China, Chin-Kee, comes for a visit. Just when Danny is about to get a girlfriend, make a sports team, or become popular around school, a visit from his “F. O. B. ” cousin changes his whole life, forcing Danny to transfer schools in order to escape the embarrassment and shame. Because Chin-Kee has slanted eyes, buck teeth, knows Kung-Fu, and has an accent, Danny loses his way and goes all out on his cousin – only resulting in one very bad move.
In the end, all three storylines merge together, revealing the moral of the novel – accepting yourself just the way you are. Each character was ashamed of something they were “unfortunately” connected to – the Monkey King’s species, Jin’s Asian culture, and Danny’s cousin. They were so obsessed with how others saw them that they lost control, bringing harm only to themselves. The Monkey King, Jin, and Danny all at first failed to realize that there is nothing wrong with being an outsider. This novel, all in all, stresses the importance of self-acceptance.