Background Information - American Born Chinese

Background Information - American Born Chinese

Teaching Gene Luen Yang's American Bo rn Chinese / ENG 414 BACKGROUND INFORMATION Before, while, or after you're finished reading, you may have some ...

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Teaching Gene Luen Yang's American Bo rn Chinese / ENG 414

BACKGROUND INFORMATION Before, while, or after you're finished reading, you may have some questions about the novel. You're sure to find some answers here.

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Home About the Author / Illustrator About Graphic Novels


Background Information List of Themes Thematic Unit and Resources Discussion Questions

ASK YOURSELF: Based on this information,would you say these demographics are accurate to Jin and his peers'

circumstances? Knowing that the book is autobiographical, do you think Yang grew up with these same demographics? Make a guess: how to you think the demographics for Asian Americans compare to people of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds today? Make a prediction: how will Asian Americans be represented in the United States compared to other nationalities in the next few yeas? What social changes or impacts might this make?

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GENE LUEN YANG'S BLOG Yang provides much of his reason for writing American Born Chinese through his website's blog. He also talks a lot about the origins of many of the characters in his stories.

Origins of 'American Born Chinese' - Part 1

ASK YOURSELF: Can you think of characters who are like The

Yang discusses the ancient Chinese folk hero The Monkey King.

Monkey King in the United States? In other countries or cultures? What qualities do they share? What characteristics are different or more highly praised in different cultures? Do you believe Yang made a smart decision in changing The Monkey King's original Buddhist themes to Christian ones? In what ways does this contribute to the book's theme? Google image search "The Monkey King." How has he been drawn and interpreted in different

styles and medium? What is your favorite?

Origins of 'American Born Chinese' - Part 2

Least favorite? How would you depict him?

Yang talks about his very personal connection to Jin's character. Do you identify with any character in the book like Yang relates to Jin? In what ways are your characteristics or experiences similar or different? Do you know real- life people like the characters in the book? Describe and compare them to the story. Yang describes his real- life experiences with racism to be much more complex compared to

Origins of 'American Born Chinese' - Part 3 Yang recalls the way in which he discovered one of

this book. Do you agree or disagree with his statement? Explain by recalling your experiences.

his childhood drawings, Cousin Chin- Kee, and how he developed the character to be the craz y character he is.

Do you find Yang's drawings of Chin- Kee to be

funny? Why do you think this is? How did you feel when you did / did not laugh? Why do you believe people respond strongly to Cousin ChinKee (in a good or a bad way)? When Yang drew the drawing to the left, do you believe he identified more with the Chin- Kee character or the (white) kid at the bottom of the page? Who do you identify most with? Yang calls Chin- Kee a dangerous character. Do you think this is an accurate statement? Explain. If you showed your friends, family, or a stranger the picture to the left or other pages that feature Chin- Kee, how do you think they would respond? How might the responses of people of various ages, cultures, or backgrounds be different? Can you think of any characters like Chin- kee? If you were to write and draw an American version of Chin- Kee, what characteristics or stereotypes might he embody? Click to set custom HTML

ASIAN CULT URES AND BELIEFS THE MONKEY KING The Monkey King (Sun Wukong) became an important Chinee figure in the 17th century novel

Complete Text of 'T he Journey to the West'

The Journey to the West . This is an epic novel with 100 chapters that depicts the journey of a Buddhist monk and his companions to India. (A

"Monkey Kingdom" Website

PDF copy of the full text is on the right side of

the page if you would like to behold its massiveness.) The story itself is based on the actual pilgrimage of the monk Xuanz ang. In the story the fictionaliz ed monk Hsuan- Tsang is accompanied by three companions: The Monkey King, The Monk Pig, and The Sand Friar. The Monkey King is the most powerful of the three companions, though he has a quick temper (as demonstrated in American Born Chinese). Through his website "Monkey Kingdom," Yang provides even more information on this figure and his personal connection to him. As a celebrated cultural figure (akin to Mickey Mouse) in the United States, The Monkey King continues to live through several folk stories, cartoons, comics, operas, television series, movies, and other mediums with different variations. Many of these are hundreds of years old but new works continue to be produced. Look up images of The Monkey King and review some of t he media clips on t he side of t he page t o see how t he st ory is a part of Chinese cult ure. Even t ry t o look up mult iple examples of similar f orms

(t here are many great examples of Chinese opera) and see what part s of t he legend are kept t he same and modif ied. ASK YOURSELF: What parts of The Monkey King story remain consistent? What parts change? Why do you think this is? In your opinion, does one form of telling the story work better than the others? What strengths or weaknesses do you see in each form? How does The Monkey King himself appear in each story? How does drawing style, animation, make- up and costuming, or special effects affect how you perceive The Monkey King? What differences do you see in how the story is presented when the film utiliz es either Chinese or American language or is translated for different audience?

WEST ERN CULT URES AND BELIEFS THE OX, THE EAGLE, THE HUMAN, AND THE LION The ox, the eagle, the human, and the lion that appear in American Born Chinese may seem to be associated with Eastern cultures and mythology but instead are greatly associated with Christianity and Western culture. Each of these symbols is associated with one of the Four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John): This helps solidify the Christian morals and values in

This helps solidify the Christian morals and values in Yang's story. ASK YOURSELF: Of all of the different figures in Christianity, wht do you think Yang chose these four? If these characters are associated with disciples, what other roles might characters take in Christianity? Make sure to explain and be able to defend your answers. How do the roles of these figures compare the the roles of other Christian characters in literature or in other genres and mediums?

ASIAN PEOPLE IN WEST ERN MEDIA AND POP CULT URE Throughout the book, we see references to popular culture and modern society. The world in which Yang creates the story is definitely our own or one very similar. Unfortunately, however, our popular culture is one that still exploits Asian caricatures. Yang using these Asian popular culture icons in American Born Chinese in order to demonstrate existing stereotypes. Primarily this is converyed through Cousin Chin- Kee.

Long Duk Dong f rom Sixteen Candles

Long Duk Dong f rom Sixteen Candles Like many movies and characters from the 1980s, Long Duk Dong continues to be one of the most referenced. However, many people (Yang included) believe that Dong is a caricature and does not portray the Asian community very well. Yang recalls having his non- Asian friends ask him to say popular film lines like "What's happening, Hotstuff?" without them considering that fact that it might be offensive. ASK YOURSELF: What is your opinion of Long Duk Dong? In what ways does he compare to / contrast with Cousin Chin- Kee?

William Hung f rom American Idol William Hung became famous when he had an awful audition in the early seasons of American Idol. He became an instant sensation and ended up producing a music video as well as three albums. Today, many people believe that Hung was exploited and was purposefully ridiculed by those who employed him. ASK YOURSELF: Why do you think Hung became as popular? In the "She Bangs" video, what stereotypes do you see? These can be cultural stereotypes, as well as stereotypes about the music

as well as stereotypes about the music industry, pop stars, woman, or anything else. What do you think was the purpose of this?

The Back Dorm Boys The Back Dorm Boys are a duo of college boys who become popular for lip- synching to pop hits when YouTube was first starting. They are different than any of the other Asian pop culture figures presented in the book in that they are associated with Jin and Wei- Chen's characters and not Cousin Chin- Kee. ASK YOURSELF: Why do you think Yang chose the the Back

What other Asian figures exist in pop culture?

Dorm Boys to be representational of Jin and Wei- Chen? Do you see any stereotypes or caricatures in this video? Do you think the fact that they produced the video independently makes a difference in how they portrayed themselves or were percieved by the public.

BEING AMERICAN BORN CHINESE IN T HE MODERN WORLD In book, Yang presents a world in which Jin and his Asian friends have trouble fitting in with their American peers. Jin has to deal with the stereotypes, the names, and rude jokes that people call him and his friends because they are Asian. In fact, Jin resents being Chinese because of this and wants to embrace the parts of himself that he believes to be American. But what if the Jin's circumstances had been different and he had originally moved from his Asian neighborhood to

China instead of his very Americaniz ed school? Today, many individuals born in the United States are moving to China for new opportunities in the employment and other reasons, and many of these people happen to be of Asian decent. ASK YOURSELF: Do you think Jin would have as much trouble fitting into the Chinese culture since he identifies himself as both American and Chinese or would Jin have the same issues? Would he be happier or make friends more easily? WATCH THIS: YouTube journalist Stephy Chung interviewed several young people who were raised in the United States and identified themselves as both American and Chinese. They talked about their experiences in both America and China, and specifically talked about how making a their permanent home in China affected their cultural identity. Part one primarily focuses on the interviewees and gathering their thoughts on their experiences, while part two brings in Professor Jinz hao Li of Beijing Foreign Studies University to discuss her study on the identity transformation of Chinese- Americans in

transformation of Chinese- Americans in China. FURTHER QUESTIONS 1. Do you relate to the experiences of any of the people in the video? 2. In what ways have their cultural identities changed from when they were living in the United States? 3. How are they treated by their peers (who are born in Asia or are from other cultures)? 4. What stereotypes of beliefs do people born in Asia have of Asian people born in the United States? 5. Is Professor Li's study accurate to the experiences of the people in the documentary? Accurate to your experiences? Explain.

WORKS CIT ED "1961 Monkey King Havoc in Heaven Chinese Animation." 7 March 2007. 12 June 2013. . YouTube file. "Beigin Opera - A Monkey King ." 14 March 2008. 12 June 2013. . YouTube file. Cheng- en, Wu. Journey to the West . 12 June 2013. . PDF

Cheng- en, Wu. Journey to the West . 12 June 2013. . PDF file. Chung, Stephy. "Part 1: Culture Shock - Chinese Americans in China." Making the Grade. 20 November 2011. 12 June 2013. . YouTube file. Chung, Stephy. "Part 2: Culture Shock - Chinese Americans in China." Making the Grade. 20 November 2011. 12 June 2013. . YouTube file. "Demographics of Asian Americans." Pew Research. 4 April 2013. 12 June 2013. . Web. "The Forbidden Kingdom (3/10) Movie CLIP - The Battle of Immortals (2008) HD" 25 October 2012. 12 June 2013. . YouTube file. "The Four Evangelist Symbols." 12 June 2013. . JPEG file. "Four Evangelists." 12 June 2013. . Web. "Picture of original Chin- Kee drawing."First Second Books. 11 August 2006. 12 June 2013. . JPEG file. "Pictures of The Monkey King." First Second Books. 8 August 2006. 12 June 2013. . JPEG files. "Pictures of Jin Wang and friend (Gene Luen Yang)" First Second Books. 9 August 2006. 12 June 2013. . JPEG files. "Sixteen Candles Movie Long Duk Dong What's Happening Hotstuff." 20 September 2008. 12 June 2013. . YouTube file. "tow chinese boys:i want it that way." 25 June 2005. 12 June 2013. . YouTube file.

/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=x1LZVmn3p3o>. YouTube file. "YAL Ameican Born Chinese." 12 June 2013. . PowerPoint file. Yang, Gene Luen. "American Born Chinese book cover." 2006. Gene Luen Yang official website. 12 June 2013. . JPEG file. Yang, Gene Luen. "Monkey Kingdom." 12 June 2013. Monkey Kingdom. . Web. Yang, Gene Luen. "Origins of 'American Born Chinese Part 1." First Second Books. 8 August 2006. 12 June 2013. . Web. Yang, Gene Luen. "Origins of 'American Born Chinese Part 2." First Second Books. 9 August 2006. 12 June 2013. . Web. Yang, Gene Luen. "Origins of 'American Born Chinese Part 3." First Second Books. 11 August 2006. 12 June 2013. . Web. Yang, Gene Luen. "Panel of The Monkey King." 2006. Google Books. 12 June 2013. . JPEG file. "William Hung - She Bangs [Music Video]." 28 May 2008. 12 June 2013. . YouTube file.

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