American Born Chinese

by Gene Luen Yang

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How does accepting his identity in American Born Chinese help Jin tackle school isolation?

Quick answer:

The comic American Born Chinese suggests that accepting one’s true identity is very important. Jin works hard to fit in, even though he's unsuccessful, and even transforms into his idealized American self, Danny. But Danny’s cousin Chin-Kee comes and embarrasses Danny. Ultimately, with the help of the Monkey King and Wei Chen, Jin learns that self-acceptance is the key to finding community.

Expert Answers

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Throughout the comic, Jin struggles to accept his true identity and is determined to assimilate into white, suburban American culture. He feels outcast, isolated, and upset with himself, but his desire to fit in helps him push through those feelings. Jin is so desperate to become someone he is not that he transforms into Danny, an idealized version of himself.

But Danny’s Chinese cousin Chin-Kee comes to town embodying lots of Chinese stereotypes and causing Danny a lot of embarrassment. Chin-Kee represents aspects of being Chinese in America that Jin does not want to be associated with. Then Chin-Kee turns out to be the Monkey King, whose narrative was told earlier in the comic. Consider what the Monkey King says to Danny once he reveals who he is:

now that I’ve revealed my true form, perhaps it is time to reveal yours… Jin Wang.

The bolded emphasis on the phrase “true form” here underscores the significance of living authentically. No matter what Jin does, he will never be able to escape his identity. Instead, the book suggests that he should embrace it to find community and solidarity rather than running from it and feeling isolated. In the end, Jin learns that he will feel most comfortable and finally find a place where he fits in if he embraces his true identity. He waits for Wei Chen in a Chinese restaurant, and the pair become true friends. This suggests that self-acceptance creates confidence and community.

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