Growing up as a ABC (American Born Chinese) for me, was like living in a shadow. You see yourself as one person at home, but then another at school or with your friends. Sometimes, you just don’t know who you are. This identity crisis occurs not just in ABCs but in everyone at one point in their life. It’s our job as future librarians to help aid in helping people find their identity.
In honor of his anointment by the Library of Congress as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature on Monday, I wanted to write this week about my reading experiences that included works by Gene Luen Yang, specifically American Born Chinese.
Over winter break, I read his latest book, The Shadow Hero
Reading it reminded me of my teenage inner demons and how important it is for books to have protagonists from all backgrounds. This is the background story of a 1940’s comic book hero called the Green Turtle created by artist Chu Hing. It goes through the story of the son of immigrants named Hank. He and his family run a grocery store in Chinatown. After his mother was saved by a superhero who could fly, she aspired for her son to be one too. One problem: her son doesn’t have superpowers but he becomes tangled with some bullying gangsters anyway. When a tragedy hits, a spirit is released who has some answers for Hank. The importance of the story is aligned with the importance of the author’s note in the back. It explains from an unbiased point of view of the faceless 1940s Green Turtle character and how it is rumored that the artist wanted the character to be Asian. Even though his publisher turned down the idea, the character’s face was always in the shadows; replaced with the shadow of a turtle head. The first issue of the 1940’s comic is attached at the end for the reader to determine the hero’s identity for themselves.