The indie comic artist Gene Luen Yang, a child of Taiwanese immigrants to the United States and an observant Roman Catholic, wrestles with the central ambiguity of colonialism throughout his remarkable set of linked graphic novels, Boxers and Saints…The nuance conveyed in the dialectical design of the companion volumes counteracts the mythmaking that can result from combining history and fable in comic book form.
In two volumes, Boxers & Saints tells two parallel stories. The first is of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant boy whose village is abused and plundered by Westerners claiming the role of missionaries. Little Bao, inspired by visions of the Chinese gods, joins a violent uprising against the Western interlopers. Against all odds, their grass-roots rebellion is successful.
But in the second volume, Yang lays out the opposite side of the conflict. A girl whose village has no place for her is taken in by Christian missionaries and finds, for the first time, a home with them. As the Boxer Rebellion gains momentum, Vibiana must decide whether to abandon her Christian friends or to commit herself fully to Christianity.
Boxers & Saints is one of the most ambitious graphic novels First Second has ever published. It offers a penetrating insight into not only one of the most controversial episodes of modern Chinese history, but into the very core of our human nature. Gene Luen Yang is rightly called a master of the comics form, and this book will cement that reputation.
This boxed set includes the trade paperback Boxers as well as the trade paperback Saints, packaged together in one slipcase.
A New York Times bestseller
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2013
Boxers reviewWith 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 “foreign devils” who are perceived to be the cause of their country’s woes. What begins as a righteous march to the capital, bolstered by Little Bao’s 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’t 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’s 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 reviewIn 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’s 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 “maiden warrior” 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.)
A masterful work of historical fiction that happens to be in the form of a graphic novel, and a very accessible view into a complicated moment in Chinese history.” Dave Eggers
“In Boxers and Saints, Gene Luen Yang once again masterfully draws us into the most difficult issues of self-identity and communal understanding, with characters who struggle to act out of their deepest cultural and spiritual selves. But when they find that their commitments lead them in terrible, frightening directionsone toward massacres, another toward martyrdomthey must ask questions for which there are no easy answers. The brilliance of this noveland I mean, aside from the brilliance in the telling of a major historical episode about which most North Americans know very little and which provides some critical lessons in political relationshipsthe brilliance lies in the merger of fast action and humor and very real characters and startling graphics with a shattering sense of the brokenness of the world and our terrible need for compassion. Read this, and come away shaking.” National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor winner Gary Schmidt, author of Okay for Now and The Wednesday Wars
In Boxers and Saints, Gene Luen Yang once again masterfully draws us into the most difficult issues of self-identity and communal understanding, with characters who struggle to act out of their deepest cultural and spiritual selves. But when they find that their commitments lead them in terrible, frightening directions--one toward massacres, another toward martyrdom--they must ask questions for which there are no easy answers. The brilliance of this novel--and I mean, aside from the brilliance in the telling of a major historical episode about which most North Americans know very little and which provides some critical lessons in political relationships--the brilliance lies in the merger of fast action and humor and very real characters and startling graphics with a shattering sense of the brokenness of the world and our terrible need for compassion. Read this, and come away shaking.
History clashes with the idealizations of fiction in these interlocked tales of teens caught up in China's Boxer Rebellion between 1897 and 1901. Who is "right"? The Western missionaries who preach the Christian gospel but whose ranks include bandits and exploiters? Or the boxers, who call upon their pagan gods to help kill the Christian intruders and their Western protectors? Little Bao is a peasant lad whose village suffers at the hands of the missionaries. Inspired by visions, he joins in violent rebellion with thousands of other angry and hungry Chinese who deplore the greedy Westerners. But in another village, unwanted Four Girl finds a home and new name—Vibiana—with Christian missionaries. Through Bao and Vibiana, we see how no crusade is "pure." VERDICT This excellent two-part graphic novel teaches history through a double-lens narrative, showing how factors interact to create unwanted tragedies by both sides. The winsome, magical-realist art of Yang (American Born Chinese) plays ironically against the bloody conflict enhanced by artist Lark Pien's colors. Heartbreaking and sometimes funny, this boxed set is for teens and adults interested in international politics and people's rebellions.—M.C.
Printz Award winner Yang's ambitious two-volume graphic novel follows the intertwined lives of two young people on opposite sides of the turn-of-the-20th-century Boxer Rebellion. Little Bao, whose story is told in Boxers, grows up fascinated by the opera's colorful traditional tales and filled with reverence for the local deities. Appalled by the arrogant behavior of foreign soldiers, Christian missionaries and their Chinese supporters, he eventually becomes a leader of the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, fighting under the slogan "Support the Ch'ing! Destroy the Foreigner!" The protagonist of Saints--an unlucky, unwanted, unnamed fourth daughter--is known only as Four-Girl until she's christened Vibiana upon her conversion to Catholicism. Beaten by her family for her beliefs, she finds refuge and friendship with foreign missionaries, making herself a target for the Boxers. Scrupulously researched, the narratives make a violent conflict rarely studied in U.S. schools feel immediate, as Yang balances historical detail with humor and magical realism. Ch'in Shih-huang, the first emperor of China, and Joan of Arc serve as Bao's and Vibiana's respective spiritual guides; the rich hues of the protagonists' visions, provided by colorist Lark Pien, contrast effectively with the muted earth tones of their everyday lives. The restrained script often, and wisely, lets Yang's clear, clean art speak for itself. This tour de force fearlessly asks big questions about culture, faith, and identity and refuses to offer simple answers. (bibliography) (Graphic historical fiction. 12 & up)
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