American Born Chinese | Study Guide

Gene Luen Yang

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Study Guide
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American Born Chinese | Character Analysis


Jin Wang

Jin Wang was born in the United States to Chinese immigrants. Even though he's growing up in the United States, he still feels like an outsider. The thing that bothers him the most is his appearance. He doesn't come right out and say he wants to be white, but he envies the white guys in his class who seem to move easily through life. Bullied since his first day in the suburbs, he is timid and insecure—especially when it comes to talking to girls. He's also hesitant to befriend other Asian kids lest it make him an even bigger target for teasing.

Monkey King

The Monkey King is best known as the main character of the 16th-century Chinese novel The Journey to the West. In both narratives he transforms from an ill-tempered envious immortal to an enlightened being who is happy with himself as he is. In American Born Chinese, he is Wei-Chen's father, who—in the role of Chin-Kee—serves as Jin's conscience.


Wei-Chen looks like a Taiwanese teenager, but he's really a monkey. Because he wanted to be an emissary of Tze-Yo-Tzuh—like his father, the Monkey King—Wei-Chen agreed to join the human world for 40 years. The experience isn't what he expected. Disgusted by the immoral and self-serving behavior of humans, he abandons his mission to seek out his own pleasure.


Blond-haired, blue-eyed Danny seems to have everything going for him—but his history of three high schools in three years tells a different story. Although he blames his inability to fit in on his cousin Chin-Kee, Danny's difficulties can be traced to the huge metaphorical chip on his shoulder. Despite his generic appearance, he never feels truly accepted by others. At the book's climax, it is revealed that Danny is actually Jin Wang, who wished to look like everyone else.


Chin-Kee is the embodiment of nearly every negative stereotype about Asian Americans. He has buckteeth, extremely narrowed eyes and braided hair and wears outdated traditional Chinese clothing. In addition, he eats cats, mixes up his "R" and "L" sounds, and is obsessed with white American girls. At the book's climax, the reader learns that Chin-Kee is actually the Monkey King in disguise.

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