Boxers and Saints (Boxed Set)

Gene Luen Yang. First, Second, $34.99 boxed set (512p) ISBN 9781596439245
Boxers review With a superbly executed triptych of graphic novels, Yang (American Born Chinese) employs parallel storylines to represent two opposing Chinese experiences during the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th century. Raised in an impoverished rural village, Little Bao and his older brothers embark on a crusade to save China from Christian missionaries and other ‚Ä%BAforeign devils‚Ä%B9 who are perceived to be the cause of their country‚Ä%B4s woes. What begins as a righteous march to the capital, bolstered by Little Bao‚Ä%B4s recurring visions of a pantheon of Chinese gods, quickly escalates in violence and rhetoric. By the time Little Bao and his amassed army, dubbed the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, reach the occupied city of Peking, morale is strained and the line between right and wrong has blurred. Yang doesn‚Ä%B4t shy from the ensuing bloodshed (beheadings are not uncommon), yet moments of lightheartedness and potential romance humanize the combatants, even as their campaigns take on zealous dimensions. Yang‚Ä%B4s artwork and storytelling are sober and accessible, and his character-driven approach brings compassion to a complex historical clash. Ages 12‚up. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Saints review In the companion to Boxers, Yang shifts focus to Four-Girl, a mistreated Chinese girl who decides to become a Christian despite the heavy cultural stigma it carries. Although her initial reason for converting is misguided (she‚Ä%B4s mainly a fan of the snacks she receives), she eventually embraces the religion and, inspired by visions of Joan of Arc, is spurred to become a ‚Ä%BAmaiden warrior‚Ä%B9 for God. To prove her faith, Four-Girl (newly christened Vibiana) charges herself with defending Peking, which has become a refuge for foreigners and Christians from the approaching Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist. As in Boxers, the climactic battle is brutal; established characters meet their demises quickly and unceremoniously. Read separately, the books are honest and revealing character studies of two differing Chinese perspectives during the Boxer Rebellion. Together, they resonate electrically, partly due to their mirrored plots, but more so for capturing the historical context and dueling psychologies (the group vs. the self, national pride vs. spiritual pride) that underlie this political and cultural conflict. Ages 12 up. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 11/25/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
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