American Born Chinese | Study Guide

Gene Luen Yang

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American Born Chinese | Quotes


You may be a king ... even ... a deity—but you are still a monkey.

Celestial gatekeeper, Chapter 1

Certain that he'll be allowed entrance to the banquet in Heaven, the Monkey King is blindsided when the celestial gatekeeper turns him away. Despite his skills and title, outsiders always view him as nothing more than a monkey. This is the same type of struggle Jin Wang has with his racial and ethnic identity in the main story line of the book.


Something made me want to beat him up.

Jin Wang, Chapter 2

Jin has no interest in befriending Wei-Chen when the latter arrives at Jin's school. In fact, the mere presence of Wei-Chen seems to make Jin angry. All Jin wants is to be just like the white kids in his class—at best popular, at worst unremarkable. Wei-Chen is a visual reminder of everything Jin dislikes about himself.


Rong time no see!

Chin-Kee, Chapter 3

Chin-Kee has a firm grasp on the structure of the English language. He just can't pronounce it well. His repeated switching of the R and L sounds is reminiscent of the stereotype that these sounds are impossible for all people of Asian descent to pronounce. Chin-Kee represents the myth of the Asian non-native English speaker, whereas the reality is exemplified by Wei-Chen, who grew up in Taiwan speaking Mandarin Chinese.

English is Wei-Chen's second language. There are words he still doesn't quite understand and he sometimes has difficulty with English grammar. His experiences are common to people who aren't native English speakers.


I am not a monkey.

Monkey King, Chapter 4

The Monkey King has gone to enormous lengths to prove that he isn't "just" a monkey. He has mastered kung fu, he can change size, and he can't be killed. Having not yet realized that it's possible to be a monkey and be awesome, he bristles every time someone dares call him a monkey. To him, being called a monkey is an insult on par with any traditional racial slur. When people call him that word, he feels small and unimportant.


Stop acting like such an F.O.B.!

Jin Wang, Chapter 5

Wei-Chen can't believe that Jin has a crush on Amelia. At home in Taiwan, teenagers just don't admit those things. Jin responds with an insult. F.O.B. is short for "fresh off the boat." It's a derogatory phrase used to describe recent immigrants who do not understand the intricacies of American culture. Wei-Chen doesn't take Jin's comment as an insult here, but he does later in the book when they fight about Suzy.


I never noticed it before, but your teeth kind of buck out a little.

Melanie, Chapter 6

Danny does everything he can to show people that he's nothing like his cousin Chin-Kee. He's especially clear about that with Melanie when she tells him she just wants to be friends. Danny's worst fears come true when Melanie mentions his teeth. Having buckteeth would only emphasize his connection to his cousin.


What, so I can pee in it?

Danny, Chapter 6

Danny's conversation with Steve in the gym suggests that Danny's problems fitting in at school aren't just because of Chin-Kee. Earlier in the day, Chin-Kee urinated in Steve's can of Coke. Steve doesn't know that, but Danny does. When Steve later offers to buy Danny a Coke, Danny automatically assumes Steve is making fun of him. Danny's insecurities are the reason he has trouble making friends.


Return to your true form and you shall be freed.

Wong Lai-Tsao, Chapter 7

The Monkey King has been imprisoned under a mountain of rubble for 500 years by the time Wong Lai-Tsao finds him. He says he can't help the traveling monk because the seal affixed on the mountain prevents him from practicing kung fu. Lai-Tsao insists that's not true—the Monkey King just needs to go back to his true form, that of a small monkey, to be freed. Lai-Tsao is right. When the Monkey King shrinks, he can easily wiggle out from underneath the mountain. He could have been freed long ago had he only let go of his ego.


Deep down inside ... I kind of feel like that all the time.

Suzy Nakamura, Chapter 8

Suzy cries as she tells Jin that when Tommy called her a "chink" she realized that she always feels like an outsider, even with her friends. Like Jin, Suzy has internalized the negative words her peers use to describe her, which ultimately affects her relationships and self-image. Words may not do physical damage, but they can wreak emotional havoc.


I would have saved myself ... had I ... realized how good it is to be a monkey.

Monkey King, Chapter 9

Jin's not sure what to do once he learns the truth about Chin-Kee and Wei-Chen. When Jin asks for advice, the Monkey King comments about how he lost 500 years underneath "a mountain of rock" because he didn't want to be a monkey. He helps Jin understand the main message of American Born Chinese: happiness and contentment are possible only when people accept themselves exactly as they are.

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