47 pages 1 hour read

Gene Luen Yang

Dragon Hoops

Nonfiction | Graphic Memoir | YA | Published in 2020

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The History and Effects of Racism

Racism is a theme explored in special detail by Gene Yang. Himself an American son of a Taiwanese immigrant, his literary persona, Mr. Yang is mistaken for Alex Zhao’s father by fans at the game, since Alex, an exchange student, is the only Chinese player on the team. Although Yang doesn’t mind, and, in fact, is flattered by the mistake, since Alex plays exceptionally well, small moments like these reveal the extent to which racial stereotypes pervade American life.

Because Yang’s novel, as a narrative nonfiction graphic novel, occupies such a unique generic category, its story arc speaks powerfully to the complicated ways in which racism has developed. Essentially, Yang can tell the story of basketball’s history while also demonstrating the effects of racism in the way in which it is manifest on and off the court in the present day.

As to the book’s first of these two objectives, Yang explains how the famous Globetrotters adopted the “Harlem” moniker to highlight their African American roots. Despite the Globetrotters’ success, African Americans came to prominence within the sport of basketball only in fits and starts. A particularly jarring panel features Yang’s narrative that explains: “At the turn of the twentieth century, many ‘scientists’ proclaimed that blacks simply weren’t as fit for athletics as whites” (113).

Related Titles

By Gene Luen Yang