My first graphic novel of the year is the young adult gem, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. This quickly-moving piece weaves together three stories. One is a parable about a monkey king with super powers including flight, immortality, and super-strength…but who is still just a monkey and therefore treated like a second-rate citizen by the other gods. The second story is about Jin Wang, a typical second-generation Chinese American who must deal with the usual teenage growing pains on top of being continuously stereotyped by his teachers (who introduce him as Jing Jang from China instead of Jin Wang from San Francisco) and white classmates (who immediately ask if his family eats dogs). The third section of this story features Chin-Kee, who is an offensive caricature of a Chinese relative who comes to visit his very white jock cousin Danny.
I was initially intrigued by the first section, captivated by the second, and bewildered by the third (which seemed offensive and out of place at first). However, the second time through each section, the author does some very Almodóvar-esque tying together of these disparate stories. My eyes popped, my jaw dropped, my mind was blown, and then I ran out of clichés just as I finished the last page. I wholeheartedly recommend American Born Chinese.