Study Guide

American Born Chinese Friendship

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We find out what kind of ruler the Monkey King is—the kind that bops his monkeys on the head if they do something wrong, and speaks to them like he's their lord (granted, he kind of is). But we wonder: is this part of Monkey's problem? He puts himself on a pedestal above all the other monkeys and so he becomes totally full of himself. And there's no one around him who can tell him when he's acting ridiculous.


Monkey goes around bashing everyone's head when he finds out he's not allowed to attend the party in the heavens. We don't think we need to tell you that that's no way to deal with rejection, and it's definitely not a good way to persuade people to become your friends later on. Which is why Monkey ends up alone—a lot—in the first part of the book.


Jin tells us about how he used to have a group of boys just like him—same interests, same race—who hung out with him when he lived in Chinatown. He doesn't ever use the word friends to describe these guys though. Why is that? Are they his real friends?


Before Wei-Chen, there was Peter, the "friend" who basically used Jin as his personal punching bag. We see Peter as kind of a cautionary tale: even if you're lonely, you shouldn't just become friends with just anyone. Peter is definitely not solid friend material.


This is the part when Wei-Chen manages to befriend Jin, despite Jin's best attempts to ignore the new Asian kid. How does Wei-Chen do it? With a transforming robot-monkey. Ah, the power of toys.


Wei-Chen teases Jin about his crush on Amelia, and in response Jin tells Wei-Chen to stop being an "F.O.B." Hrm… that seems a little harsh to us, but Wei-Chen agrees with him. Is Jin really doing Wei-Chen a favor by telling him that he's being an "F.O.B.", or is Jin just being a jerk?


Wei-Chen totally sets up Jin (in a good way) when he tells Amelia all about Jin's friendship with him. It's one of those moments that make you see how heartwarming and genuine Wei-Chen is, which is probably why Amelia responds positively to his story about Jin. Lucky Jin, right?


This is the part when we find out that not only is Monkey Wei-Chen's father but that Wei-Chen feels really bitter about how Jin asked him to lie for him. As a result, Wei-Chen abandons his test of virtue for Tze-Yo-Tzuh and refuses to see his father. Sounds logical right? Okay, but here's the problem: How does this all work in terms of the timing of the plot? When does Wei-Chen actually have this conversation with Monkey? If he's angry over the lie Jin asked him to tell and he thinks that humans are "petty, soulless creatures" because of what Jin asked him to do, then why does he still remain friends with Jin after he tells the lie for Jin? Weird, right?


After the Monkey King tells Jin all about Wei-Chen, Jin waits for a month at 490 Bakery Café for Wei-Chen. But we don't know that Jin's waiting for Wei-Chen until the next set of panels. For these panels, we just know that he's waiting for something. It's not the most exciting set of panels, but it does create a delayed effect. We're forced to find out what exactly Jin is waiting for; the author basically baits us just like Monkey baits Jin. Pretty nifty trick, if you ask us. Added bonus? When Wei-Chen does show up, it makes Jin a lot more worthy of Wei-Chen's forgiveness. After all, Jin waited for a month—that's commitment.


Maybe it's a little cheesy of us to admit this, but the ending of the book really is a sweet, feel-good, makes-us-go-aw ending. Jin apologizes to Wei-Chen, who by now is so transformed by Jin's betrayal that he's turned into an Asian gangster (or at least he dresses like one). So it's just really fitting that—over a cup of pearl milk tea—Wei-Chen comes around and forgives Jin. Why is that pearl milk tea so significant? Pearl milk tea is the defining drink of Chinese Americans (especially Taiwanese Americans), so when Jin willingly says he'll go with Wei-Chen to Wei-Chen's favorite pearl milk tea place, Jin is basically showing Wei-Chen that he's cool with both his and Wei-Chen's Chineseness.

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