Study Guide

American Born Chinese Foreigness and "The Other"

By Gene Luen Yang

Foreigness and "The Other"

When you've got a book titled American Born Chinese, you've got to expect that foreignness will be a huge issue. And it is. Jin does whatever he can to appear typically "American" (that's in scare quotes because who knows what that even means) in hopes that he won't seem Chinese/foreign. But he's not the only one. The Monkey King also does what he can to not appear like the Other as a monkey in a world of humans, gods, and goddesses. There's no changing a face or a body, or for that matter, a race, and that's the crux of how the foreign works in this book: it's something that the characters can't run away from since it's an inextricable part of who they are and how they experience the world around them. What they can change, however, is their self-perception, so dealing with the Other is really a process of dealing with the self.

Questions About Foreigness and "The Other"

  1. How do Wei-Chen and Jin deal differently with their Chineseness at their predominantly white school?
  2. How is the Monkey King an example of the Other?
  3. How does Suzy Nakamura deal with her sense of foreignness?
  4. Why is Chin-Kee so important to the story?

Chew on This

We need the Other in order to define ourselves.

Stereotypes exist because they're grounded in truth.