LIS 590 SM
June 21, 2007
Assignment #1: Germ File Entry
Yang, Gene. American Born Chinese. New York: First Second, 2006.
ISBN 1596431520, 240 p. Grades 6-12. (Printz Award Winner 2007)
This graphic novel is told in three parts, three distinct stories with something in common. Jin is a
young Chinese American boy, trying to emphasize the American in his life and hoping to win the
heart of a blonde girl. From the ordinary, we shift to the Monkey King (of Chinese folklore), who
cannot stand being a monkey and most of all would like to transcend his monkey-ness. The third
story is about Danny, a middle school boy who is continually plagued by his cousin Chin-Kee’s
visits from China. His embarrassment cannot be contained and Chin-Kee’s wildly stereotypical
actions are exaggerated beyond belief. This is a story about overcoming prejudices, fitting in,
making friends, and accepting who you are. Told in graphic novel format, the illustrations are full-
color and vivid, allowing for a lively storytelling.
In a unit on folklore or a study of non-Western literature, students may select an adaptation of The
Monkey King to read, and compare and contrast it to Yang’s portrayal of the character. This may be
a written report, or even more compelling, a class discussion/debate, involving multiple versions of
the same story. Questions to think about: How does Yang’s interpretation of the Monkey King
compare to the original Chinese tale? What do each of these say about Chinese culture? How has
time affected each adaptation? Why do you suppose Yang chose the specific details of The Monkey
King that he did? After reading the folktale, what more have you learned about its place in American
Jiang, Ji-Li. The Magical Monkey King: Mischief in Heaven. Shen’s Books, 2004. ISBN
Kherdian, David. Monkey, A Journey to the West. Shambhala, 2000. ISBN 1570625816. 244 p.
Wu, Ch’eng-en. Monkey: Folk Novel of China. Grove Press, 1994. ISBN 0802130860. 320 p.
As issues of discrimination and prejudice are abundant in this novel, it would do well in the social
studies curriculum, especially in a unit devoted to the history of racism, prejudice, and
discrimination in America. Students could research a particular group (including but not limited to:
Chinese Americans, African Americans, Japanese Americans, Jews, Muslims, women, the elderly,
disabled persons, homosexual persons, etc.) to tie in with this novel (or the novel may just be read by
those researching Chinese Americans). An expo or fair may be organized to showcase these findings
—although not as uplifting as a traditional cultural fair, it does bring about the very real (though
depressing) history of our country. The overlying theme: Those who do not learn from the mistakes
of the past are condemned to repeat them.
What a wonderful opportunity to talk about graphic novels (and create your own)! Discussion topics
of the history of comic books, the popularity of them today, the different styles (including Japanese
manga), and the ways in which they affect readers are all possible options. Students may also choose
another graphic novel to read in order to compare artistic styles. Suggested graphic novels for teens
can be found at these websites:
Comic Books for Young Adults
Graphic Novels and Comic Books: An Annotated List.
No Flying, No Tights http://www.noflyingnotights.com/core.html
YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens
Students may, of course, also create their own graphic novels, through direct instruction of the Art
teacher and aide from the following resources:
Chinn, Mike. Create Your Own Graphic Novel: Using Digital Techniques. Barron’s, 2007.
--. Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel: Everything You Need to Know to Create Great
Graphic Works. Barron’s, 2004.
Davila, Victor M. How to Draw Graphic Novels! Tangerine Press, 2004.
Eisner, Will. Graphic Storytelling. Poorhouse Press, 1996.
Gertler, Nat. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel. Alpha Books, 2004.