Study Guide

American Born Chinese Tough-o-Meter

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(3) Base Camp

"All right," you're thinking. "Why isn't this book rated at Sea Level (1-2)? Isn't it a comic book? How hard can that be?"

Okay, so we'll give you the fact that this book definitely isn't a Ulysses, and it may not even be an Of Mice and Men. Graphic novels can be deceptively simple though. To read this book, you've got to be really sensitive to the details of each drawing, and you also have to be able to imagine what Yang leaves out between the frames of each drawing. It takes reading between the lines to a whole new level.

Then there's the whole multiple-narrative thing. One narrative might be easy, but three narratives? That starts to get complicated. Plus there's the whole Chinese-cultural-background-knowledge thing. Like, what is the actual story of the Monkey King? Yang doesn't tell you because he's all about taking the folk tale and changing it for his purposes, but you still need to know the real story because Yang assumes that knowledge.

And then there's the whole Jin-Danny-Chin-Kee storyline. You think you're reading a realist story, but then Yang throws some seriously fantastical stuff at you. Why does he do that? Just another one of those tough questions you'll have to contend with while you're reading this "easy" book.

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