Review: American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese  American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Mac Millan Publishers – First Second (2006)

ISBN 9781596431522

Price: $12.00

This graphic novel is an intriguing thing to consume. It is actually three seemingly unrelated stories woven together into a tale of the struggle for identity, acceptance, honor, and heritage from very different Chinese experiences and perspectives. It is one part modern fable, one part coming of age story and one part identity crisis. Gene Luen Yang has set the bar high for what a graphic novel can be: smart and visually provoking in the same way words on a page can be if they are arranged well. You may think you know what to expect but you don’t; if you think you got the whole story, you’re wrong. Read it again!

Quantitative: Lexile Level: 530 (Graphic Novel); ATOS 3.3

Qualitative: Middle/Upper Grades (7-10). Mature themes and some graphic depictions may not be appropriate for younger readers.

Content Area: Social Science – Chinese-American

Common Core Standards: RL.9-10.2, RL.9-10.3, RL.9-10.5, 

Additional/Digital Content:

Author resource from Kennedy Center:

Awards: National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2006), Printz Award (2007), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2007), James Cook Book Award Nominee (2007), Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best Graphic Album – New (2007) .


Three stories, one Chinese, one American, the third a struggle between the two cultures to find meaning in identity. A graphic novel that clashes cultures together and in the end, fuses them into one life story.

Personal Note: This is a graphic novel that can be used in a variety of settings with upper-middle grade classes. It is suitable not only for grade-level readers, but also has great appeal for struggling readers as well as advanced readers. A complex graphic novel can be a valuable  differentiation tool and this book is a great example.


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