American Born Chinese By Gene Yang
American Born Chinese • 1) A bit of background about the Monkey King. • 2) Gene Yang’s views. • 3) Discussion about the book.
Monkey King • The story of the Monkey King is a beloved one in China, and is based on legends dating back to the sixth Century.
History behind legends • In real life, a monk named Xuanzang (602 - 664) spent years and years traveling all over Asia visiting Buddhist sites and translating Buddhist scripture. • In legends that were told later, he had a monkey companion.
Journey to the West • 1,000 years later, in the 1590s, a novelized version of the legends of monk Xuanzang was published. • Journey to the West is considered one of the great novels of Chinese culture.
Monkey King • In the novel, the monk Xuanzang has several companions, all of whom agree to help him to atone for past sins. • The Monkey King is the most popular character in the novel.
On his web site, Gene Yang writes, “Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, is probably the most beloved fictional character in the Eastern world. He's like the Asian Mickey Mouse, only without the squeaky voice and corporate sponsorship.” Preview for the film The Forbidden Kingdom: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3677028377/ Monkey King
Gene Yang on the Monkey King: • “Growing up in America . . . I couldn't watch Monkey King cartoons after school, I couldn't pull my sandwich out of a Monkey King lunch box, and I couldn't roundhouse kick my G.I.Joes with a Monkey King action figure. I tried to get my friends into him, but all they wanted to do was play Star Wars. The closest thing to the Monkey King in Star Wars was Chewbacca. The big kid always got to be Chewbacca. Eventually, as American culture seeped into every corner of my consciousness, Spider-man, Batman, and their entire spandexed genre overtook the Monkey King's place in my heart.”
Monkey King • So, for Yang, the Monkey King in ABC may represent Chinese culture and that Chinese part of himself that has been lost growing up in the U.S.
Graphic Novel • As is the case with the graphic novel, Persepolis, though, ABC tells a very complex story about growing up with mixed messages. The Monkey King comes to represent a variety of conflicting ideas, which are often conveyed through interesting juxtapositions of words and images . . . • Yang creates three separate narratives that come together at the end. Why?