All this week, the writers of Christ and Pop Culture unveil their 25 most loved things of 2013. 

Previous #13: Gravity

#12. Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

I was first introduced to Gene Luen Yang when I picked up his graphic novel, American Born Chinese, on the clearance rack at my local bookstore. Yang’s exploration of identity and assimilation through weaving the narratives of an American Chinese boy, an overwrought stereotype named Chin-Kee, and a mystical Monkey King opened my eyes to the kind of deep storytelling that a graphic novel can offer. Inspired by his Chinese American Catholic upbringing, Yang has now published another superb piece of literature wrestling with questions of faith, ideology, and cultural identity around the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th century.

Boxers & Saints is a diptych, two different stories hinged together by a greater narrative. Boxers tells the story of Little Bao and his teenage companions who harness the power of the Chinese Opera gods to liberate China from the “foreign devils” by killing Christian missionaries. It is told as a war epic in full, beautiful, color. Saints, on the other hand, tells the story of a young Christian convert, Vibiana, who is shunned by her family and goes to live with missionaries. This volume encapsulates the humility of China’s Christians at the time with a quieter and more intimate narrative, told mostly in grey. In Boxers & Saints, Yang does an excellent job of engaging readers by stirring up empathy for those on both sides of the conflict. In the end, the reader is left questioning what makes one a hero or a martyr, while at the same time trying to fully understand the relationship of one’s national identity with Christian faith.

Suggested Reading:
Boxers, Saints, and the Path Between

Next #11: Netflix and Hulu