Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

"American Born Chinese" follows the interconnected stories of three characters grappling with their cultural identities.


"American Born Chinese" is a graphic novel written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang. This award-winning book weaves together three distinct storylines to explore themes of cultural identity, acceptance, and the struggle to fit in. Through its compelling narrative and vibrant artwork, the novel offers a thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of being an ethnic minority in America.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The novel consists of three interconnected storylines that eventually converge. The first story follows the legendary Chinese folk hero, the Monkey King, who seeks acceptance and recognition. The second storyline centers on Jin Wang, a young Chinese-American boy who faces challenges while trying to assimilate into American culture. The third narrative revolves around Danny, a popular high school student, and his cousin Chin-Kee, a caricature of negative Chinese stereotypes.


The novel primarily takes place in a contemporary American suburb, where the characters navigate the complexities of their identities within the cultural melting pot of the United States.

Main Characters

The novel features several main characters, each with their unique struggles and journeys.

Jin WangA Chinese-American boy who grapples with his cultural identity and the desire to fit in.
The Monkey KingA legendary figure from Chinese mythology who yearns for equality and respect.
DannyA popular high school student who feels embarrassed by his cousin Chin-Kee's behavior.
Chin-KeeDanny's cousin, who embodies exaggerated Chinese stereotypes, causing embarrassment and shame.

Summary of Different Story Points Over Chapters

Jin Wang's Story

  1. Jin Wang struggles with his identity as a Chinese-American in a predominantly white school.
  2. He develops a crush on a white girl, but faces racial prejudice and microaggressions.
  3. Jin befriends a new student, Wei-Chen Sun, who shares his cultural background, helping him gain confidence.

The Monkey King's Story

  1. The Monkey King seeks acceptance and equality among the other gods and demons.
  2. He faces ridicule and discrimination due to his appearance and desires to change his fate.
  3. The Monkey King embarks on a journey of self-discovery and transformation.

Danny's Story

  1. Danny struggles with the embarrassment caused by his cousin Chin-Kee's visit, fearing social repercussions.
  2. He attempts to distance himself from Chin-Kee, leading to a confrontation that forces him to confront his own prejudices.
  3. The revelation of Chin-Kee's true identity brings about a significant shift in Danny's perception.

Main Events

  1. Jin Wang's encounters with racial prejudice and microaggressions at school.
  2. The Monkey King's quest for acceptance and transformation.
  3. Danny's struggle with his embarrassment over Chin-Kee's behavior.
  4. The revelation of the interconnectedness of the three storylines, leading to a powerful climax.

Themes and Insights

Cultural Identity

The novel delves into the complexities of cultural identity, exploring the challenges faced by individuals straddling multiple cultures and the quest for self-acceptance.

Stereotypes and Prejudice

It addresses the impact of stereotypes and prejudice on individuals and the ramifications of perpetuating harmful cultural caricatures.

Assimilation and Acceptance

The book examines the desire for acceptance and the internal conflicts that arise when trying to assimilate into a different culture while preserving one's heritage.

Reader's Takeaway

"American Born Chinese" offers readers a poignant and thought-provoking exploration of cultural identity, acceptance, and the impact of stereotypes. Through its engaging narrative and compelling artwork, the novel encourages introspection and empathy, prompting readers to contemplate their own attitudes towards cultural diversity.


Gene Luen Yang's "American Born Chinese" is a captivating and insightful graphic novel that skillfully intertwines three narratives to explore the complexities of cultural identity and the quest for acceptance. Through its engaging storytelling and vibrant artwork, the book resonates with readers, offering valuable insights into the challenges faced by individuals navigating the intersection of multiple cultures. This compelling work stands as a testament to the power of storytelling in fostering empathy and understanding across diverse experiences.

American Born Chinese FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'American Born Chinese'?

    The genre of 'American Born Chinese' is graphic novel, young adult fiction, and contemporary fiction.

  2. What is the book 'American Born Chinese' about?

    'American Born Chinese' is a graphic novel that weaves together three distinct storylines to explore themes of identity, cultural assimilation, and acceptance. It follows the experiences of a Chinese-American boy, Jin Wang, and incorporates elements of Chinese folklore and mythology.

  3. Who is the author of 'American Born Chinese'?

    The author of 'American Born Chinese' is Gene Luen Yang.

  4. Is 'American Born Chinese' suitable for young readers?

    Yes, 'American Born Chinese' is suitable for young readers, particularly those in the young adult age group. It addresses important themes and experiences relevant to adolescents.

  5. What awards has 'American Born Chinese' won?

    'American Born Chinese' has won several awards, including the Michael L. Printz Award, the Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album, and the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.