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Read This: American Born Chinese

After reading some heavier things such as Calvin’s Institutes and James Cone, this was a real treat. Gene Luen Yang really delivers a book that transcends the graphic novel with issues of identity, purpose, and positive images (pun intended) of reconciliation.

It was quite deceptive how easily and beautifully three narratives are interwoven to discuss these rather deep and often painful matters. It only took me a couple of hours to read, but it with color and grids, it reminded me of the racism I experienced growing up in Oklahoma as the only Asian kid in my class. It recalled how difficult it was to be friends and to make friends and how much I longed to connect. It made me feel not alone in this struggle. I was also impressed that the author in the course of the story quoted Psalm 139, which is a passage that has comforted me as I wrestled with the notion that God truly intended for me to be what he made me to be, it was wonderful to read this in an entirely different context to the same effect.

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,  I know that full well.

This book is a gem and I can see how it won so many awards, but if you’re Asian American you should read it because it will validate your experiences and give you some perspective on how to love yourself and other Asians, be they more recent arrivals to the US or not. One of the quotes on the dust jacket read, “As an Asian American, American Born Chinese is the book I’ve been waiting for all my life.” – Derek Kirk Kim. And although I can’t say that now in my 30s, I certainly could’ve have said this in my teens and early 20s. So bravo, Gene Yang – you made my week.

Here’s a quick trailer I found on YouTube for the book, but don’t worry, it doesn’t give anything away.


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

2 responses to “Read This: American Born Chinese

  1. tim

    i read this book awhile back… and agreed, it is very good. and while reading it, i THOUGHT i detected some Christian tones in it, but i couldn’t put my finger on it… thanks David!

    it really gives you a lot to think and reflect on too.
    (and for those who want it, there’s good humour too)

  2. Glennis ⋅

    I loved this book myself! I actually teared up reading that section where Ps 139 is quoted (brilliant!) and laughed out loud in other sections. I gave away my only copy (to my brother who loved it), I think I’m going to have to get another copy 🙂

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