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Boxers & Saints

First Second

Gene Luen Yang

Oct 22, 2013 Issue #47 - September/October 2013 - MGMT Bookmark and Share

Sometimes the best way to unpack a complicated historical event is to look at it from a smaller scale. That seems to be the goal of Boxers & Saints, the new two-volume graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese. Each volume focuses on a story centered around the Boxer Rebellion, the nationalist uprising of Chinese citizens against foreign imperialists and Christian missionaries from the West. The first one (though you can read them in either order), Saints, centers on a Chinese convert to Christianity, while Boxers focuses on a member of the uprising who plays a pivotal role in the eventual battle and siege in Beijing. The tales slightly intersect, but mainly tell small stories that are part of a much larger historical tapestry. There is some magical realism weaved in, with appearances from Joan of Arc, Jesus, Ch’in Shih Huang (the first emperor of China), and Guan Yin (a Chinese goddess of compassion). The books’ protagonists are two young people, each experiencing the horrors and the ins-and-outs of a complicated conflict. The characters aren’t very three-dimensional or even particularly empathy-worthybut Gene Luen Yang deserves credit for trying to look at a thorny historical uprising through the lens of two confused people. (

Author rating: 6.5/10

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