American Born Chinese

by Gene Luen Yang

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How do the Transformers act as symbols in American Born Chinese?

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Transformers—robots in disguise—aren't just toys from the 1980s. They're also a very important symbol of what Jin wants to be in life. Like the giant robots, Jin wants to transform himself into something different. He's tired of being a regular Chinese-American kid; he wants to assimilate into white society.

The same attitude is behind Jin's transformation into his fantasy alter ego Danny, a white high school student who fits in easily with the other kids. From this, we can safely infer that Jin's unhappy with his ethnic identity and desperately wants to be someone and something else. In his feverish imagination he takes one look at a Transformer and sees how that's possible. In actual fact, however, Jin's new persona causes major problems, not the least of which is his knocking the head off his cousin, Chin-Kee.

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