American Born Chinese

by Gene Luen Yang

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Who are the heroes in American Born Chinese and why?

Quick answer:

Jin is a hero because his path toward self-acceptance is like a hero’s journey. He faces many challenges, like racial stereotyping, and ends up leaving his world and becoming Danny. But he's still unhappy in Danny’s world, and while there, he learns that would it be better to be his true self. He returns to his familiar world and applies this lesson to befriend Wei-Chen. The Monkey King is also a hero because of his determination to help Jin.

Expert Answers

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Although not explicitly stated, the protagonist of American Born Chinese, Jin Wang, is a hero. Like many heroes, he is on a journey. Jin is on the journey toward self-acceptance, and he faces many obstacles on his way. He has to confront racial stereotyping and internalized racism, and he even departs his life and becomes his idealized self, Danny. But he is still not free of his struggles in Danny’s world, as the stereotypes that his cousin Chin-Kee embodies still get to him. When Chin-Kee reveals himself to be the Monkey King, Jin learns about the importance of being one's authentic self. So, like lots of heroes on their hero’s journey, Jin returns to his familiar world. There, he begins to apply what he’s learned and befriend Wei-Chen again.

The character of the Monkey King is also a hero of sorts, and not only because he has led an adventurous existence. By disguising himself as Chin-Kee, the Monkey King watches out for Jin, and in the end, he is the one who pushes Jin to accept his true self. In this way, he saves Jin from internalizing the racism he’s experienced in society. Like many heroes, the Monkey King is honest, inspirational, and determined to complete what he set out to do.

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