American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese Quotes and Analysis

“I, too, am a deity! I am a committed disciple of the arts of kung-fu and I have mastered the four major heavenly disciplines, prerequisites to immortality!”

The Monkey King, p. 14

When a guard denies the Monkey King access to the party in the heavens, the Monkey King responds with this declaration. More than a superficial boast, this passage reveals the Monkey King's deepest insecurity: that no matter what he does, he will always be seen as a monkey. In this passage, he wrestles with the revelation that while his dedication to training has made him powerful and given him supernatural abilities, he has been unable to shed his lowly status as a monkey.

“I am no more worth of love than you, yet Tze-yo-tzuh loves me deeply and faithfully, providing for my daily needs. How can I not respond in kind?”

Wong Lai-Tsao, p.137

In this passage, the monk Wong Lai-Tso gives a humble yet profound response when the vagrants he serves ask why he treats them so kindly. His reply gives the reader an insight into the monk's virtue: he serves out of great love and joy for the love and joy that he has received from Tze-Yo-Tzuh. His response is significant because it provokes the vagrants to reveal their true forms as emissaries of the creator; it is revealed that Lai-Tsao has passed their test.

"It's just that she's a good friend and I want to make sure she makes good choices, you know? We're almost in high school. She has to start paying attention to who she hangs out with."

Greg, p. 179

In this passage, Greg justifies why he doesn't want Jin to keep dating Amelia. Greg's words imply that he is acting out of care for Amelia, who he sees as a sister figure, but what he reveals is his own prejudice against Jin. Without stating it outright, Greg states that he does not think Amelia, who is white, belongs with Jin, who is Chinese. The moment is as shocking for Jin as it is for the reader: Jin has come to suspect that maybe Greg likes her himself, but the real issue transcends the expected conflict and becomes part of a greater constellation of the racial prejudice Jin is subject to throughout the book.

"Today, when Timmy called me a…a chink, I realized…deep down inside…I kind of feel like that all the time."

Suzy Nakamura, p. 187

In this quotation, Suzy admits to Jin how she always feels embarrassed to be excluded. This passage is significant because it shows how a single racial epithet can trigger a deeper pain and sense of alienation from the society in which she lives.

“It’s easy to become anything you wish, so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.”

The herbalist's wife, p. 29

This passage is taken from the conclusion of Jin's conversation with his mother's herbalist's wife. After he admits that one day he would like to grow up to be a transformer, like the toys he plays with, the herbalist's wife assures him that he can become anything he wants, even an inanimate object, if he's willing to forfeit his soul. Her ominous statement will resonate later in Jin's life when he sacrifices his Chinese identity in order to fit in with his white classmates—a decision that makes him lose touch with his soul.

“It made me nervous that someone could have so much power over me without even knowing it.”

Jin, p. 88

In this passage, Jin comments on the extreme power that Amelia Harris has over him when he first becomes infatuated with her. He highlights the contrast between his obsession with her, and how he grows distracted and terrified in her presence, while she appears oblivious to the effect she has on him.

“This isn’t Taiwan, you goof! Stop acting like such an F.O.B.!”

Jin, p. 89

After Wei-Chen teases Jin for liking Amelia, which Wei-Chen justifies as being a normal thing to be teased for in Taiwan, Jin grows angry at Wei-Chen's un-American sense of humor. Jin's derogatory use of FOB—meaning "fresh off the boat"—reveals his discomfort at being associated with Wei-Chen and his desire to assimilate into mainstream American society.

“I chink it’s getting a little nippy out here.”

Timmy, p. 96

When Suzy, Wei-Chen, and Jin are talking and laughing together outside, minding their own business, Timmy sees an opportunity to put them down with a cruel statement that plays on the slurs "chink" and "nip." As childish as Timmy's taunt is, it is enough for the three Asian students to stop laughing and for looks of embarrassment and shame to fall across their faces.

“I want you to pack up and go back to where you came from!”

Danny, p. 205

In this passage, Danny's anger builds to the point where he finally confronts his cousin Chin-Kee. His statement echoes the language of American racists who tell nonwhite people to "go home," even when the people they are insulting may be American-born. Danny's words have a different resonance when it is revealed that Danny is, in fact, Jin's fantasy alter-ego, and Chin-Kee represents the Asian stereotypes he wishes not to be associated with.

“You know, Jin, I would have saved myself five hundred years’ imprisonment beneath a mountain of rock had I only realized how good it is to be a monkey.”

The Monkey King, p. 223

After the Monkey King reveals his true form to Jin, Jin asks what he is supposed to do next. The Monkey King does not tell him directly, but references the story of how he became imprisoned for five hundred years under a mountain of rock. The entire time, all he had to do to escape was to accept his true form and shrink to his regular size. This passage is significant because it shows the thematic echoes between the Monkey King's and Jin's struggles with changing their identities.