Thursday, November 26, 2015

Saints (Boxers & Saints) by Gene Luen Yang

China, 1898, foreign missionaries have started to convert townsfolk to Christianity.  There are those who didn't want the "foreign devils" to be in their land and erasing their heritage.  Four-Girl was the fourth daughter born on the fourth day of the fourth month and the only of her mother's children to survive over a year.  Her grandfather refused to give her a name (four is nearly homophonous to the word "death" in the Chinese language) because he had his fill of death.  She never can seem to do anything right and always angers her grandfather.  Her mother takes her to an acupuncturist to see what he can do with her and she begins to learn about Christianity from the acupuncturist and his wife (and also get some great snacks).  One day she finally has enough of home and runs away to be with a group of Christians, after all they give her a name - Vibiana.  During her conversion to Christianity, she begins to see visions of Joan of Arc and begins to style herself after Joan to be a woman warrior for God.  This is not a good time for Christians in China and Vibiana will have to make life or death decisions to stay true to her nationality or to her newly discovered faith.

Saints is the second volume in Gene Luen Yang's two volume graphic novel story covering China's Boxer Rebellion.  By using fantasy elements, readers are swept into an engrossing narrative of the events that lead up to and surrounding the Chinese Boxer Rebellion in 1898-1901.  In this volume, we follow the life of Vibiana and see the effects of the Chinese conversion to Christianity from her perspective.  With the combinations of compelling prose and stylized artwork, the reader is completely swept up into the heartbreaking events of this rebellion and the aftermath.  This title is appropriate for older teens and adults as there are more adult themes and depictions of war.  Saints is an eye-opening look for western readers into a piece of China's history with ramifications in the present.

You can find Boxers by Gene Luen Yang on the VBPL Catalog. If you enjoyed Boxers, you may want to try American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang or Zahra's Paradise by Amir.

Review by Michelle L. ChrzanowskiTCC Norfolk Campus Library

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