American Born Chinese

by Gene Luen Yang

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Why doesn't Greg want Jin to date Amelia in American Born Chinese?

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Jin’s parents are both immigrants and the family lives in San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood—where Jin enjoys his life surrounded by other Chinese Americans. Wanting a better life, and specifically a better school system for Jin, his parents decide to move the family to the suburbs, where Jin has trouble making friends and fitting in.

In elementary school, Greg initially defends Jin when another student, Timmy, bullies him. However, after the exchange, Greg leaves with Timmy, signaling that while Greg stood up for Jin in the moment, he still considers Timmy a friend.

Later, in junior high, Jin finally succeeds in taking Amelia out on a date. Jin has had a crush on Amelia for years, and this is a significant moment because it’s a big step toward Jin’s assimilation into the predominantly white suburb.

Greg witnesses the date and later approaches Jin, telling him:

It's just that she's a good friend and I want to make sure she makes good choices, you know? We're almost in high school. She has to start paying attention to who she hangs out with. (8.62)

Greg has known Jin for years, so Greg knows that Jin is an inherently good young man. Greg has become more keenly aware of the social structure within the school, and he views Ameila’s potential relationship with a Chinese American as damaging to her position within the social order.

This moment solidifies Greg as the antagonist of the narrative and embodies the way racial stereotypes are reinforced by adolescents.

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