In American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang used a number of stereotypical images of Chinese and Chinese American to create his character Chin-Kee. Jin Wang, a Chinese American kid, humiliated by his classmates just because of his Chinese ethnicity. Hence, he struggled between his self-concept and group identity. Through analyzing stereotypical images in the book, this paper explores the mechanism of stereotypes and the identity redemption of Chinese American in the United States. The graphic novel American Born Chinese contains three stories of self-hate, moving towards self-discovery that begin separately, and eventually meet at the end, combining all the stories together into one resolution. To be more specific, the Monkey King, Jin Wang and Danny handle their identity crisis and find their own way to recognize themselves in the end. Cheryl Gomes and James Bucky Carter think that this book helps students explore concepts of symbolism, theme, challenges and conflicts inherent in adolescence and cultural stereotypes who struggle daily to navigate social environs and negotiate their identities. The term stereotype is defined as “…a fixed, over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people.” According to McLeod Saul, stereotypes can create ignorance by generalizing individuals of a group to be all the same.
Stereotypes make a barrier that leads to prejudice.Making one assume they know a person just based on a stereotype. It is clear that according to the definition of stereotype, we can find that all the characters are encountering different kinds and levels of stereotypes. I will describe how Gene Luen Yang depicted stereotypes in the American Born Chinese. In an effort to show and tell the effects of racial stereotyping and assimilation, Yang presents one very egregious Chinese character, Chin-Kee, who has just arrived from China to visit his cousin Danny. Chin-Kee is the very embodiment of every stereotype, and super embarrassing. Chin-Kee represents all the negative Chinese stereotypes into one outrageous exaggerated whole such as a round yellow face with two buck teeth, slanted eyes, and long queue. Also, he wears traditional Chinese dress and speaks with the L/R switch (“Harro Amellica!”, “Everyone Ruvs Chin-Kee.”). The stereotype “Chinese people are really smart.” is also bought into light as the well-crafted character Chin-Kee answers all the questions correctly while people just stare vacantly in the background. At times I was sickened by the extreme negative racial stereotypes portrayed by Chin-Kee which, I know, was the point.
Jin may sound like a typical American, but still he looks like a Chinese. On his first day of school, he gets bullied for being Chinese. His room teacher butchers his name, and makes incorrect assumption about his personal information that, “He and his family recently moved all the way from China!” What’s worse, she doesn’t correct Timmy when he says Chinese people eat dogs which is one of false impression of Chinese people, and instead she reaffirms it, “Now be nice, Timmy! I’m sure Jin doesn’t do that! In fact, Jin’s family probably stopped that sort of thing as soon as they came to the United States!”