Monday, May 12, 2014

Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Boxers & Saints Boxed SetBoxers & Saints Boxed Set by Gene Luen Yang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jen Ambrose's discussion both introduced me to these books and got me interested. Then I saw that other much trusted readers (the Hodges) were all on board and that got me really, really interested. These are graphic novels which I would have sworn is a medium I do not enjoy, until I got these from the library and simply could not put them down.

Boxers & Saints tells two parallel stories. Boxers is about Little Bao, a Chinese peasant boy whose family and village are abused by Westerners who are missionaries. Inspired by visions of the gods, he joins a grass roots uprising to cast out the foreigners. I never knew the history of the Boxer rebellion before and this was a fascinating way to learn it. The nuanced story does not give all good or bad attributes to one side but it does allow us to understand the motivations behind the rebellion in a fairly personal way.

Saints tells the story from the opposite side. It is about Four-Girl who is so unloved by her grandfather that he didn't allow her to be given a name. Visions of Joan of Arc lead her to Christian missionaries and ultimately her destiny as the Boxer Rebellion sweeps over everyone associated with the foreigners. I loved Gene Yang's clear vision of the girl's reasons for being attracted to the faith. They are hilarious and understandable, as are the reactions of the missionaries who take her in. No slack is cut to those who think they know what is going on but never ask questions.

These books impressed me because of Yang's honest insights into human nature, motivations, and the way we can get sidetracked when we don't understand our own motivations.

Highly recommended.

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