Friday, May 1, 2015

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

How many times have you heard praise for Boxers and Saints by Yang?  For me, I have lost track.  Everyone I know that has read these books have had positive things to say about them.  When I saw them both sitting on the shelf at my local library, I knew it was time to make my own judgment.

Both books tell a story from the Boxer Rebellion.  What is the Boxer Rebellion, you ask?  It was an uprising that took place in China between 1899 and 1901.  A secret organization was formed to fight against the push of westernization.  This is a very simplified version of a very complex piece of history.  But, it can be very helpful information to have before beginning these books.  I did not have this information, so I went into the books blind to their content.

Boxers tells the story from the perspective of Bao and his family.  We get to see his perspective on the invasion and push of western ways, and how the rise of the secret society arose to fight for their traditions and cultures.

Saints, on the other hand, follows the other side . . . a traditional Chinese household in which one turns to the ways of the West.  We experience the uprising through the eyes of Four-Girl, a rejected child who finds her place among the new ways.

You will find recurring characters in both books, and each one covers essentially the same time period, creating parallel stories.  All graphics are in neutral colors, something I believe Yang does purposefully to cement his purpose in trying to remain neutral when reading the story from both sides.

I can totally see why so many have raved about these books.  Yang's work is eye-catching and intriguing.  It made me aware of a piece of history that I was not familiar with, but found myself wanting to know more about.  Yet, it is not just historically important; I also believe that it can shed some light into the religious battles and violence that are continuing to occur today.

I am left with many more thoughts, but one in particular stands out -- How much more can I derive from these books once I am educated even more on the Boxer Rebellion?  I think this is one that can be read over and over again and still take something away each and every time.

Have you been educated by Boxers and Saints?  What were your thoughts?


  1. I learned a ton from Boxers and Saints, and it made me want to pick up a proper nonfiction book about the Boxer Rebellion. In general I need to learn more about Chinese history, because I don't know nearly enough. Maybe once I am done with my Africa reading project (ha ha that is very far in the future), I will start doing a proper read of some Chinese history books.

    1. Jenny @ Reading the End ... I am really fascinated with Chinese history, too! I have a tendency to love fiction books with a Chinese historical trend. I really should pick up some non-fiction. I just don't know where to start! Let me know if you find any good ones!!

  2. These really prompted me to dig into some research on the Boxer Rebellion, and I was so taken with the grey area in any type of battle of ideologies. Yang always does such a great job bring that grey area to the forefront.

    1. Andi ... Where did you do your research on the Boxer Rebellion? I would love more books and resources if you are willing to share!


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