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American Born Chinese

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Katarzyna Wasylak

on 19 January 2016

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Transcript of American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese
Gene Luen Yang
"Yang makes clear that, for Asian Americans, the issue of ‘who you are’ is in a state of constant reinvention." (Philip Smith)
Stereotypes and invisibility of Chinese characters
"Plain Language from Truthful James"
By Bret Harte
The Overland Monthly Magazine (September 1870)
The anti-Asian movement led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Gentlemen’s Agreement (with Japan) of 1907, both severely limited immigration from Asia. Support was bolstered with propaganda.

Here is a vintage “Yellow Peril” poster. The white female victim at his feet references the fact that most Chinese in the U.S. were male–women were generally not allowed to immigrate–and this poster poses them as a threat to white women and white men’s entitlement to them:
“Why they can live on 40 cents a day…and they can’t,” this poster says, referring to the fact that white men can’t possibly compete with Chinese workers because they need to support their moral families. The Chinese, of course, usually didn’t have families because there were almost no Chinese women in the U.S. and white women generally would not marry a Chinese man.
1. Why American Born Chinese, not "American Chinese"?
2. How are Asian and Caucasian characters portrayed in ABC?
3. What similarities/ differences can you find between Journey to the West and ABC? How does Yang's retelling change the interpretation of the myth?
4. What is the connection between Jin, Danny, the Monkey King , Chin-kee, and Wei-Chen?
5. What path does the Monkey King choose and how is it similar to/different from his son's choice?
"Tze-Yo-Tzuh" is actually a transliteration of "I AM" in Chinese. The Chinese phrase has an connotations of... uh... "self-existence" is the best way I can describe it. An existence independent of any other.

The original Monkey King tale, first written down in a novel called Journey To The West, was Buddhist at its core. I would encourage you to read it-- it's one of the four pillars of Chinese literature. It is also awesome.

I wanted to do an Asian-American retelling of the tale, so I added Western, Judeo-Christian elements to my version.
(Gene Luen Yang)
Jin has no means to represent modern China or the postmemory of the Cultural Revolution, just a
myriad of imagined Chinas drawn primarily from the American cultural imagination. Jin is only
Chinese in relation to the non-Chinese characters (Smith 2013, online).

Yang further communicates Jin/Danny’s relationship to his Chinese ancestry through puns in Mandarin. Doughty contends that Chin-Kee’s name doubles as both the English-language racial slur ‘Chinky’ and a combination of the character ‘relative’ and the English word ‘key’. Chin- Kee (or ‘ -key’) is a counterpart to Danny, whose name in Mandarin sounds like ‘big you’
or ‘strike you’ (Doughty 2010, 56–57).
American born Chinese
The Transformers can hide their true nature and become unremarkable in their new home.
The Transformer is a metaphor which runs throughout American Born Chinese...
Jin is Danny. Chin-Kee’s antics force him to transform back. Wei-Chen is a monkey who has transformed into a human. Yang makes the allusion explicit when
Wei-Chen’s father, the Monkey King, gives him a Transformer toy ‘to remind you of
who you are’ (Yang 2006, 217). (Smith 9)
The Monkey King’s story is a literal journey to the West. He begins in mythical China and travels to America (rather than beginning in India and travelling to China in the original Journey to the West) where he transforms once more into Chin-Kee, the embodiment of Danny’s otherwise marginalised Chinese American identity.
Wei-Chen’s final transformation sits at the heart of the book’s moral message,
and yet critics seem divided over exactly what identity he has adopted. In contrast to Song, I read Wei-Chen’s transformation as taike, a specifically Taiwanese style of excessive dress (Smith 2013, online).
Wei-Chen adopts a deliberately non-American Asian identity.
His street racer/taike identity is supported by his refusal to speak in English. Cheney contends that Wei-Chen takes on the trappings of American Hip Hop culture and thus a style of dress which is more commonly associated with certain African American, rather than Asian American, cultures. Cheney asserts that Wei-Chen’s Hip Hop accessories serve to emphasize the degree to which his identity is a performance. The monkey which Jin Wang sees, Cheney contends, serves as a medium through which Jin Wang and Wei-Chen recognize their shared identity (Smith).
Gene Luen Yang used the myth of the monkey king to talk about identity issues relevant to many contemporary youths. In a similar fashion transform Cinderella's story into a contemporary narrative about emigrant experience.

Work in pairs.
Present it to class.
Gene Luen Yang Talks About The Shadow Hero
6. What is the significance of the theme of
in ABC and which symbols/ scenes suggest it?
What do these refer to?

Journey to the West
Monkey King
Dragon King
Jade Emperor
Heavenly General of Mighty Miracle and Twelve Thunder Generals
the Lady Queen Mother
Lao Tzu
the Boddhisatva Kwan Yin
the Spirit of Great White Planet Venus
Yama, Ox Head, and Horse Face
Chapter 2
aka the Supreme Patriarch
What Christian accents were added in ABC and how do change the text?
identify the monomyth formula in ABC
Cinderella (The Real Story) by the Brothers Grimm (Summary) - Minute Book Report

Read Haruki Murakami's "Super Frog Saves Tokyo"
and Dorothy Tse's
"Black Cat City" and "The Traveling Family.
How The Monkey King Came To Be - Journey To The West
Full transcript