American Born Chinese Summary & Study Guide

Gene Luen Yang
This Study Guide consists of approximately 27 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of American Born Chinese.
This section contains 1,031 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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American Born Chinese Summary & Study Guide Description

American Born Chinese Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

This multi-narrative graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, tells the story of Jin Want, a young American Chinese boy struggling to find and reconcile his identity as both someone of Chinese descent, and as an American.

As the novel opens, the setting is not one of modern times, but of ancient times, in China. It is a version of the Monkey King tale. In the opening chapters, the gods and goddesses are having a party. It is so loud and so plentiful that the wonderful smells drift down to the people below, where the Monkey King is the supreme ruler of the lands. He is upset because he has not been invited to the party and decides to crash it. He is stopped at the door, being told that he is 'just a monkey'. This infuriates the King and he goes on a rampage, breaking expensive pieces of art, furniture, and even strong-arms some of the gods in his anger. Humiliated and upset, he leaves the party and returns home.

Meanwhile, back in the present day (or at least the 1980s) Jin Wang is in the third grade. He lives with his family in a portion of San Franciso called Chinatown. It is his normal routine to go with his Mom to the local herbalists store. This time, when his mother is taking too long in the store, he begins talking with the herbalist's wife, who always seems to be click-clacking on her abacus. Mysteriously, without looking up from her abacus, she tells Jin that he can become whomever he'd like to be, but he may find himself giving up his soul in order to do it. Jin considers her to be a little off her rocker, and they soon leave. However, her words will stick with him as he ages.

The next couple of years see Jin and his family move out of Chinatown and into the Bay area where he and one other Chinese American are the only ones like them, there. The other Asian, a girl, is too shy and doesn't like to speak to anyone, even Jin. It is a very lonely year for Jin, until the next year when a Taiwanese boy, named Wei-Chen Chang, starts attending the school. At first they don't get along at all, which depresses Jin, but later, they are able to set aside their arguments and become friends.

The novel leaps forward in time, to the 1990's. This portion of the graphic novel features a new character named, Danny. Though he is blonde haired and blue-eyed, he has a cousin named Chin-kee who is coming to visit. Danny is appalled. His cousin is the embodiment of every Chinese stereotype known to exist. Danny's sure that he will embarrass him, especially in front of Jenny, Danny's girlfriend. When Chin-kee arrives, the reader sees that he's drawn to be almost apelike in appearance, speaks with a thick accent, and is crazy good with math. It is as Danny has feared, and he is embarrassed.

Flashbackward....the novel jumps back to the tale of the Monkey King. In this section the King has locked himself in the royal chamber in order to train himself to become a transcended master of kung-fu. He calls himself The Great Sage. He takes it upon himself to punish the gods for their prejudice and insult to his person at the party. Lord-Above finally confronts the 'Great Sage' and challenges him to a task. It does not end well as the Lord-Above imprisons him under a mountain for his insolence.

Meanwhile, back at the Monkey King's prison. Lord-Above has imprisoned the Monkey King for 5,000 years, and finally he's feeling forgiving. He sends the most righteous in the land, Hsuan-tsang, to visit the Monkey King. He's to make the Monkey King his disciple. After a discussion about the true nature of humility and power, the Monkey King is freed. He agrees to lead his Master into the desert.

Back in Jin Wang's life, the reader sees him in middle school and having his first crush on a girl, named, Amelia. With some help from Wu-chen, Amelia agrees to go out with Jin. His first date with her is to the amusement park. They seem to get along great, but the next day she dumps him when the popular boy asks her out. Later, the same boy, named Timmy, gives Jin a look as if to acknowledge what he'd taken away from him. He calls Jin a dog-eater. Upset, Jin goes to find Wei-Chen to tell him what has happened, but runs into Suzy, Wei's girlfriend. They talk about what happened and they end up kissing, just as Wu walks into the room. He realizes that he has just done to Wei-Chen what Timmy did to him, and he is ashamed. Later that night, the herbalist's wife comes to him Jin a dream, telling him that he has forfeited his soul and that he will be granted his wish. When Jin wakes up the next morning he has been transformed into a blue-eyed blonde haired boy....and he calls himself Danny.

Danny finds Chin-kee in the school's parking lot and they begin to fight. Danny is tired of Chin-kee coming every year and embarrassing him. Chin-kee, in the course of the fight begins to transform. He eventually becomes the Monkey King. He tells Danny/Jin that he cannot hide who he truly is and that his dyed hair and colored contacts are only an illusion. He tells Jin that Wei-Chen was really the Monkey King's son, and his final task had been to take human form and to remain uncorrupted for forty years. He had failed when he began to hate Jin for kissing Suzy. This angered the Monkey King enough that he chose to haunt Jin in the form of Chin-kee until Jin apologized to his son.

Jin realizes that he not only needs to reconcile with Wei-Chen, but he needs to reconcile with himself, just as the Monkey King urged. The novel ends with Jin finding Wei in an area of Chinatown in Oakland. They sit down at a local cafe and begin to talk.

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This section contains 1,031 words
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Buy the American Born Chinese Study Guide
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