Friday, June 7, 2013

Boxers & Saints (Part I)

Confession- when I get excited, I do this with my hands:

And this is exactly what happened when I got my hands on the review copies of Gene Luen Yang's Boxers & Saints two-volume graphic novel.  

When I was getting my MLIS, Mr. Yang's American Born Chinese was required for my YA lit class.  I read it twice in as many days.  I still grab it when I see it on the shelf at the library, and flip through at my desk or on breaks.  I just love the way this man writes and illustrates.

Boxers is the first in a two-volume graphic novel series about the Boxer Rebellion.  It is the story of Little Bao, a young man in 1898 China, who has had enough of missionaries and foreign soldiers hurting those he cares about.  A major breaking point leads him to form a band of common villagers. He trains them in kung fu- they are called Boxers (or "The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists").  They make their way to Peking, fighting to free China from the "foreign devils."

Little Bao's journey is one side of this historical uprising.  Yang's narration and drawing is...magical.  I had actually never heard of the Boxer Rebellion.  Well, I may have heard of it, but hadn't looked into it at all.  I loved the way this graphic novel wove together history, folklore, religion, and traditional arts.  The overlying colors are incredibly neutral, and then Chinese Gods and Goddesses, opera characters, and puppets come out in shockingly bright, beautiful colors.  It's this awesome punch that really shows what Little Bao is feeling.  There is laughter and heartbreak, all told beautifully.  It makes a pretty rough topic accessible to young adults.

Plus, there's a climactic library scene.

The main character's name has a place in my heart as well.  My sister spent a few months in China, and every morning went to the same bakery and ordered the same thing: Gai Mei Bao.  To the point where the ladies started calling her Bao (it is also one of the few things I can actually order in Chinese [and the extent of my Chinese is absolutely just food]).

I can't speak enough praise about this graphic novel.  I enjoy anything that makes me want to learn more about...anything.  Like how Mirror, Mirror made me go on a Borgia stint.  I have a feeling I will be researching this for the next few weeks.

I'll be reviewing Boxers' parallel novel, Saints, next.

Boxers is published by :01 First Second.  Digital Copy provided by NetGalley.
Release Date:  09.10.13

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