For years, I've watched students read graphic novels and thought, I should read one of those, but never did. Well, I've finally done it. I've read my first graphic novel, and I must say, my introduction into the genre was quite pleasant. So much so, that I'll most likely read another one soon. For my first graphic novel, I chose American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. I chose this particular graphic novel for two reasons. First, it had been recommended to me by several people including a student of mine. Second, it was on the bookshelf at the library. That being said, I highly recommend this graphic novel, especially if you, like me, have never read one before.
American Born Chinese follows three story lines. The first is of young boy Jin Wang who finds himself the only Asian student in his new school and faces the xenophobia of the other students at his school. All Jin wants is to fit in and have friends. The second storyline follows the Monkey King who desperately wants to be seen as the all powerful god that he is, but everyone sees him as just a monkey. Third is Danny, an all-American basketball player with an embarrassing Chinese cousin who visits every year. His cousin causes so much social damage that Danny is forced to switch schools at the end of every school year. Believe it or not, all three strands of this story find themselves woven into one larger story, creating a very interesting plot with a universal theme.
What these three stories have in common, and why I think this story is so popular, is the theme. All three stories touch on the theme of being happy with yourself and who you are, and not trying to be something you aren't. This is such a universal theme that it was hard not to see myself in the story as I read. But how can I relate to this story? I'm not remotely similar to any of the characters. Except that I am in one way - in fact we all are. We all have times where we wish we were something that we aren't or that we had things we don't have. Whether it's longing for straighter hair, better athletic abilities, or more friends, we all can relate to wanting things we don't have. We know what's it like to be embarrassed about something too. We know that feeling of wanting to crawl under the covers and hide until everyone forgets what we've done. So, the reason this book is so relatable has nothing to do with it's characters or even what happens to them. It's that we can all empathize with how they feel. It also lets us know that we aren't alone in these feelings. (Even though we tend to think we are). And it reminds us to be happy with who we are, because there is only one me and only one you - and we're pretty cool.