Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What I'm Reading: American Born Chinese

In one sitting I read the remarkable graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Yuen Wang, and I highly recommend it. The novel contains three stories that interweave and eventually come together in a surprising, satisfying resolution, showcasing in the process the author's unbounded creativity, humor, and sensitivity.

As an Asian-American I can relate to the theme that pervades each storyline; that growing up in a predominantly white culture can make it confusing, difficult, and sometimes embarrassing for a first generation kid to find his identity. The conflicted characters have demons to confront (figuratively and literally!), their cultural identities relentlessly dogging them and demanding to be faced.

As a cartoonist, I felt awed by the author's clean, expressive artwork. It is always refreshing for me to read comics of an Asian bent that do not follow a generic anime style. I also realize I have a lot more to learn as an artist, if I am ever to reach Wang's ability to so cleanly express emotions and actions.

Also, one of the stories centers on a monkey, and monkeys are extremely cool.