“Saints” by Gene Luen Yang (First Second, 2013)

Saints
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The companion volume to Boxers, the duology is the first graphic novel to make an appearance on the National Book award Longlist. Saints is the other side of the tale, focusing on a young girl and her journey across China after meeting briefly with Bao, and presents a completely different side to the Boxer Rebellion.

Four-Girl has had a tough life so far. She is the unwanted fourth daughter of the family who is expected to do her chores, work herself to exhaustion, and act like the dutiful child she is. But she knows she is hated by everyone, with her ugly features, and wants to just be the evil little devil everyone thinks she is. So she does the worst thing she can think: she converts to Christianity and begins to learn about the faith from one of the foreign devil priests. She takes a new, Christian, name, Vibiana. But the Boxer Rebellion is ramping up, going against and slaughtering her new Christian people, to defend the Chinese of her family and heritage. Four-Girl will have to choose where her allegiances lie.

Saints is a wonderful tale of the other side of this tumultuous time, exploring the Christian side of events and creates a delightful quest in Vibiana going on her own journey, sometimes with the likes of Joan of Arc as a companion. The art and sparing use of color lend credence to the story, making it a memorable one.

Originally written on October 2, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Saints from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Boxers” by Gene Luen Yang (First Second, 2013)

Boxers
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From the author of the award-nominated graphic novel American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang, comes an epic and original undertaking on the catastrophic event known as the Boxer Rebellion. Yang uses an innocent simplicity to the story and artwork that leaves the reader contemplating the big picture. One part of a diptych, along with Saints, this is the first graphic novel ever to be nominated for the National Book Award Longlist.

The year is 1898 and the place is China, but the country that has been so familiar and known to its inhabitants is changing. Foreign missionaries roam the countryside, converting Chinese to the new Christian faith, while foreign soldiers roam around bullying and robbing Chinese peasants. Little Bao is a young boy who has had enough of these “foreign devils.” Secretly learning martial arts from a stranger in town, he feels his calling from the old gods of China and recruits an army of Boxers. They begin to mount their defense, fighting back against the foreigners, killing and freeing the Chinese. Their final showdown will be at the great city of Peking.

Boxers does an excellent job of explaining the history of the period, as well as revealing the mythology and beliefs of the people in mounting their defense. While the story has a feel of fiction, it is a moving tale that remains true to the history and culture. It is an excellent example of how some graphic novels can go one long step further than just a regular work of nonfiction.

Originally written on October 2, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Boxers from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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