Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

Article | June 15, 2016

Finding Your Inner Monkey King


This week, our dean, Malcolm Young, and cathedral trustee Peggy Lo hosted a book discussion for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

The book they discussed was American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

Among the things that attracted Malcolm and Peggy to this book was that it is a wonderfully-drawn graphic novel that captures the experience of being outside the dominant culture with ingenuity, drama and humor.

Malcolm shared a few thoughts from the conversation between he, Peggy and the members of the Grace Cathedral community who participated in the discussion.

About the story

“I liked that the story deals with three very different worlds that are all tied together by its end. Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities often live their lives in at least two different worlds in the US,” Malcolm said.One world is that of Jin Wang, a boy who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he’s the only Chinese-American student in his class at a new school. Another world is that of the Monkey King, the hero of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Then there is the story of Danny, who feels his life is being ruined by annual visits from his cousin Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype.

What people took from the discussion

Malcolm said, “We talked both about how poorly Asians were treated in our very neighborhood in the past, and about how much Asian Americans enrich our cathedral environs now, with just one small example being the people who practice Tai Chi and Chinese dance on the cathedral close. We talked about stereotypes, self-hatred and the impact of racial identity on our understanding of ourselves. One participant had a great insight. He said the premise of the book is deciding on our true self. Is it our racial self? Is it the self you chose and become?”

What’s Next?

“I really enjoy using a book discussion as a way to honor and explore diversity,” Malcolm said. “In February, congregation member and former trustee Patrick Thompson, Rev. Tyrone Fowlkes and I led a conversation on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me” for African American History month. In the fall, I hope to host a book discussion for National Hispanic American Heritage Month, and I would love to hear our community’s ideas on which book to pick.”

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