In my opinion, Gus Lee did a great job in portraying a boy who was brought up in San Francisco and the hardships that he encountered. He portrays Kai Ting as a typical Chinese boy growing up in America, and how he overcomes the obstacles that he faces once in America. CHINABOY shows many examples of Chinese customs, these customs that clash with American customs. I think Kai Ting could represent any type of immigrant, who finds it difficult to start a new life in a totally different country. Kai Ting faces many different obstacles, like most immigrants, he has trouble being accepted which in my opinion is his biggest problem. Its funny how Kai Ting is portrayed as a wimp, getting bullied around by Willie, and how Kai Ting goes to the YMCA to get built, I mean how much more American can you get than the YMCA? Another big issue that Kai Ting and any other ethnic group are being faced with is racism. How else would he get the name Chinaboy? There were many parts of the book that showed examples of Chinese customs. His family called their trip to America, the Run. I felt this was a way of the family to separate themselves from the pain of the journey. In Chinese culture, when one member does something bad, that member disgraces the whole family. This was the main reason the family had left China. Kai's father was working with Renegade American soldiers, and the Japanese Imperial Army was seeking his family. For this reason, the family fled from Shanghai to Chungking to India, and finally to America. Also, in Chinese culture, it was looked on as bad luck when a woman bore a daughter. A daughter could not continue the family name. This was why Megan, the second daughter was treated badly by Kai's mother. The first daughter Jennifer was treated decently because she was the oldest, and was both respected and accepted for being a daughter. Normally, the last born daughter would have been blamed for the mother's bad luck for being a daughter, which would free Megan from her rank as the worthless daughter. However, as a child, Jamie, the third daughter was sick. This caused Kai's mother to be extremely protective of her youngest daughter. One custom mentioned in the book bothered me the most. This involved not telling a child of a certain age of their parent's death. When, Kai was six years old, his mother had died of cancer. Since, he was within the certain age, this was kept from him. He was sent away to live with another family for a month. Also, Kai was told that his mother would be in China, when he returned. I felt very disturbed that the truth was not told to Kai. I know he must of felt real pain when this was revealed to him by his stepmother a couple years later. In my opinion, I think that some of these Chinese customs are very stupid, I realize that it has been part of the Chinese culture for centuries, but some seem very senseless to me. In writing about Chinese customs, Gus Lee could relate any of his readers to how Kai's family has been brought up in China. I think that as an author, Lee does a great job in writing about old Chinese customs, so that people unfamiliar about Chinese customs could relate to Kai. It is clearly shown that these Chinese customs are very different from American customs. Chinaboy also displays how Chinese people are very superstitious, and how they live by their superstitious beliefs. Of my studies about Chinese culture, I have learned that Chinese people have always been superstitious, and how their everyday lives relate to these beliefs. In most instances superstitions have been used to teach lessons, to prove a point, some are stupid, but hey who is gonna mess with the gods? The most superstitious character was Kai's mother. Kai's mother was extremely superstitious. As a child, Kai was taught not to smile too brightly, otherwise the Teeth God would take all his nice bright and white teeth. The mother also did not allow Kai to eat peanuts because she was afraid he would die from eating. Her reason being was that her first cousin's son had died horribly after eating peanuts. Kai, being the first-born son, had to be protected from a death from eating peanuts. As a reader I thought these superstitions were dumb as hell, but that is my American raised opinion. Lee makes you realize how different American cultures and Chinese cultures are. What may seem right to one culture may seem totally unorthodox to another. Like most Asian parents, the mother was overprotective of her first-born son, Kai. From my experiences, all Asian parents are overprotective of their first-born. Being the third child, my parents are very easy on me after being through my older brother and sister. Kai's mother was extremely protective over her first-born son. The mother felt she had to protect her baby at all times. When Kai went to school for the first grade, his mother told his principle that he had a rare skin condition, and had to be kept inside. As a result he did not know much about the children his age. Although the mother tried to protect him by isolating him, I think that she actually hurt him by doing that.
After moving to San Francisco, Kai's father felt that Kai needed a mother, so he married a woman named Edna McGurk. In my opinion, here is the introduction to a Cinderella like theme. Edna became the wicked stepmother that the kids would grow to hate. I began to hate Edna also, because I think she is the typical racist bitch. She tries to suppress Kai from remembering his heritage and his mother. First, she would not speak to Kai unless he spoke in English. Secondly, the children were not allowed to talk about their natural mother. I think she tries to make them forget about their Chinese heritage, which I think is very wrong. I think that Lee introduces this character to show how wrong she is, and tries to teach a lesson that one should never forget about their heritage, and to always be proud of it. This is a very important theme, to never forget who you are, and where you come from. The main issue that Kai is affected by is racism. Like all immigrants, Kai has to deal with racism, and not fitting in with the crowd. Kai tries to gain friends by using Chinese as a form of communication, but instead he gets punched around. The people who beat him up call him Chinaboy because to them he seemed like a Martian and it was the best way to represent him. Like anyone moving into a new environment, he is not easily accepted. I think that everyone faces this problem sometime within their life, and that they must struggle to overcome this and gain respect from the majority. In many ways I feel that I could relate to Kai, because I faced the same type of problems while growing up in Jersey City, the name-calling and the beat downs. It is a given that anyone who looks differently from the majority will be shun and treated indifferently. I think that Lee shows perfectly the many obstacles an immigrant is faced with upon moving to a different country. The novel twists once Kai starts being accepted and makes some friends. The first friend he makes is Toussaint, who is really good towards Kai and makes him feel accepted. Kai also begins to teach Kai how to fight. Later on, Kai also meets another guy named Hector, who convinces Kai to join the typical all American gym, the YMCA to get trained to fight. I think that this is very funny because he joins the YMCA, Lee could of said he joined any gym, but he chose the YMCA. At the Y Kai meets many new people which teach him to fight, also by going to the Y he improves his English! In my opinion, this part of the story comes straight out of the YMCA commercials. This little Chinaboy joins the All-American YMCA, and turns his life around, he now has friends, could fight, and speaks English better, what more could he want? This part of the book was the only part I had difficulty with, I just could not believe that the YMCA works miracles, but strangely enough I found this part of the book hilarious. Throughout the book, I felt Gus Lee was trying to portray a Chinese boy whom was suppressed by many people from his stepmother, Edna, to his bully, Willie. He always took their beatings and their suppressions. Finally at the end of the book, with a little help from the YMCA, he beats up his bully, and finally stands up to his wicked stepmother Edna. At this point Kai had finally gained respect from everyone in the neighborhood and everyone in his family, and had gone from a skinny Chinaboy to a strong American boy. This part of the story definitely had a Rocky like theme, which I found very interesting and amusing, I mean he overcame the bully, the stepmother, and was finally accepted, but I still had a burning question, where was his Adrianne at the end of the book? In conclusion, I think that Gus Lee portrayed a perfect example of an immigrant growing up in a different environment, and the obstacles that he must overcome to finally become accepted. While reading Chinaboy, I easily related to Kai, growing up in a foreign land. I too came from an another country and had to struggle to find a new home in America. Lee describes many Chinese customs and beliefs in his writing, which I think is very important so that his readers could relate to the characters. I really think Lee does a great job in telling a story of an immigrant boy, and how he overcomes many obstacles, so that he is finally accepted in the end.