Study Guide

American Born Chinese Humility

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The story of how Jin's parents met isn't a dramatic one, but that's kind of the point. They met as immigrant grad students at their university library; his mom worked at a cannery and his dad sold wigs in order to support themselves through school. Nothing fancy or exciting—just a lot of hard work. It's also the classic immigrant story: the immigrant works hard and finally achieves the American Dream of a stable home and family.


It's tough being the new kid at school. Add to that the fact that Jin is Chinese American and you just know he's in for a whole lot of public humiliation. There's his teacher for one—she can't even get his name right, plus she reaffirms Timmy's ignorant claim that Chinese people eat dogs. Then there's all the name-calling, and the rumors about his arranged marriage with Suzy Nakamura. So it's hard to blame Jin for not sticking up for himself, for appearing too humble. He's just a nice kid put in a bad situation. What can you do when you're being bullied like Jin? Jin's solution: stay away from bullies, and if they come around, go with the flow.


This part is all about the Monkey King making sure everyone knows that he's "the Great Sage, Equal to Heaven." How does he do this? By humiliating every deity he comes across to the point that they go to Tze-Yo-Tzuh's emissaries to complain. So basically he makes everyone submit to his greater power. Not exactly someone you want to cross, that Monkey…


The Monkey King finally meets Tze-Yo-Tzuh, and it's not pretty. Even though Tze-Yo-Tzuh clearly shows his omnipotence to Monkey, Monkey's a stubborn one who isn't into submitting at all, which is why Tze-Yo-Tzuh has to forcibly flatten him with a mountain of rock. But even though Monkey is humiliated, he isn't really humbled—even Tze-Yo-Tzuh's power has its limits.


This is just a brief moment in a larger scene, but it's pretty telling about how power works. Timmy makes a comment that's meant to humiliate Amelia, but Greg sticks up for Amelia. How does he do it though? By turning Timmy's joke back on himself and humiliating Timmy even more. So sure it's cool that Greg's able to defend Amelia, but he does it only by being a bully too.


We'll just point out the obvious: Chin-Kee is clearly not the humble type. He has no issues showing off… But there's something a little admirable about that. His glee is the complete opposite of Danny's humiliated self because Chin-Kee isn't afraid to be who he is. Danny on the other hand? He's kind of a coward.


Wong Lao-Tsai is the model of humility in the book. Why? Because he's naturally that way. No one forces him to be humble and serve Tze-Yo-Tzuh. Tze-Yo-Tzuh doesn't bully him into helping others. The key to Wong Lao-Tsai's nature? Love (and logic): "'I am no more worthy of love than you, yet Tze-Yo-Tzuh loves me deeply and faithfully, providing for my daily needs. How can I not respond in kind?'" The monk's got a point.


The Monkey King meets his opposite, Wong Lao-Tsai. We'll just point out that the Monkey King ends up becoming a model of humility. Why? Because he sees Wong Lao-Tsai physically suffer on a roasting pit for the Monkey King's stubborness. By the way, if you're thinking "Hey, this is a lot like Jesus dying on a cross or something," you're definitely not far off.


Danny's fight with Chin-Kee results in their return to their true forms: Jin and the Monkey King. What's neat about their final reveal is how simple the panels look once they return to their original forms. The fight makes them larger-than-life characters, literally: Danny and Chin-Kee both look huge and their violent body parts extend outside of the panel frames. But once they become Monkey and Jin, the picture immediately becomes subdued: it's just a little monkey and a teenaged boy facing each other. It's as simple and down-to-earth as the book gets.


Jin and Wei-Chen become buds again and all over pearl milk tea, probably the least hard drink you could imagine. What's more, Wei-Chen stops wearing his sunglasses in the restaurant and Jin's hair is back to normal. Plus, Jin agrees to Wei-Chen's offer to take him to another place that sells better pearl milk tea. Both boys are on the same level: humbled. Don't tell us your heart's not feeling a little warm and gooey inside…

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