From Novel to Movie: ‘American Born Chinese’

The award winning novel by Gene Yang journeys from page to screen


Covering diverse topics and portraying a vast understanding of complex issues such as race and identity, Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel “American Born Chinese” will be entering the world of mainstream TV May 24 on Disney Plus. This vastly popular young adult book has been a topic of intense discussion since its initial release in 2007 and is bound to bring up even more once it is on the screen.

“I like that it seems like a kids book at first, but pretty quickly you realize that it covers pretty thought-provoking topics,” English teacher Ryan Ainscough said. He started teaching “American Born Chinese” about 13 years ago, testing the waters to see if this novel would work well with students, and he now teaches it every year with English 10. Literary analysis is not done so often with graphic novels such as this in high schools, but he has found that this book holds as much depth as any classic piece of literature. “Stereotypes grow in silence, so it is important to talk about. This book makes you think about it in a lot deeper and more meaningful ways,” Mr. Ainscough said. With any book being converted into television, there come concerns with how the portrayal will stay true to the source. With
a story like this that carries such powerful lessons within its words, especially through heavy metaphor, it is difficult to get the same impact on screen. “I don’t have high hopes [for it being on Disney+], and I don’t know how I feel about it being in show format. I think it would do better as a movie,” sophomore Ava Limauge said. Her concerns lie in how the show will represent the deeper topics it covers, as well as how it will portray some characters such as “The Monkey King,” the monkey from Chinese folklore. However, the show will also have actors Ke Huy Quan and
Michelle Yeoh from the critically acclaimed film “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which brings hope to many skeptics.