Analysis Of The Graphic Novel American Born Chinese

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When first gazing at the graphic novel American Born Chinese, one‟s first instinct might be to classify it as a graphic novel made for young adults to read. Although this predictable reaction can be supported by the graphic novel‟s content and structure, a closer evaluation of the book allows the reader to see many mature and complex ideas emerging from under the surface.
One of the most obvious of the ideas is racism. Jin Wang, the protagonist who tells the story, has to cope with life in America as an ethnic minority. Due to the fact that Jin is a Chinese American, he witnesses bigotry firsthand on many occasions. This racial intolerance ultimately leads Jin to sacrifice a sizeable part of who he is as a person in order to please others in
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Despite her good intentions, the teacher, Mrs. Greeder makes an error in stating Jin‟s name to the class. Instead of calling him Jin Wang, she refers to him as: “Jing Jang.” (American Born Chinese 30.1) She follows this mistake by stating that Jin
Wang and his family moved all the way from China, when in fact they moved from San
Francisco, California. Although the teacher exhibits benevolent tendencies toward Jin, her consistent mistakes and assumptions about Chinese culture seem to suggest deep ignorance about
Jin and his culture. The situation becomes more uncomfortable for Jin when a classmate, a young
Caucasian sporting dog tags, named Timmy raises his hand. Timmy states his momma said that,
“…Chinese people eat dogs.” Mrs. Greeder responds to this statement by saying, “Now be nice,
Timmy! I‟m sure Jin doesn‟t do that! In fact, Jin‟s family probably stopped that sort of thing as soon as they came to the United States!” (American Born Chinese 31.3)
Not only does her statement scream xenophobia towards the Chinese way of life, her declaration also suggests ethnocentrism. By saying that Jin‟s family probably “stopped that
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(American Born Chinese 32.4)
In spite of the fact that Jin eventually becomes best friends with Wei-Chen Sun, a student from Taiwan, the first interaction that the two characters share seems to suggest a lot about Jin‟s desire to assimilate to American culture. On page 37, Wei-Chen attempts to communicate with
Jin in Chinese. Jin responds to this by saying, “You‟re in America. Speak English.” (American
Born Chinese 37.3) Here, we see the first signs of Jin‟s desire to conform to please other people.
It is important to note that Jin is eating a sandwich, a traditional American food—he is not eating dumplings with chopsticks as her previously did. On the following page, Wei-Chen asks Jin if they can be friends. Jin responds by this by saying, “I have enough friends.” (American Born
Chinese 38.2) He then proceeds to point to a crowd of kids playing football; in this crowd of people is Timmy, the kid who previously made racially-charged comments directly to Jin.
(American Born Chinese 38.4) This passage is incredibly significant because it demonstrates that Jin desires to be liked by his American peers. As a result of this, Jin attempts to change himself to be

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