Book Review: Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

Boxers cover imageLittle Bao likes watching performers in the marketplace of the small Chinese village where he lives, and he daydreams of the stories he learns there. He worships the gods of his ancestors and knows he must honor them.

Little Bao is horrified when a foreign priest comes in to denounce the gods of tradition in favor of one Christian god. Soon he is caught up in a larger clash between the colonial forces from outside China and Christian missionaries—who are invited in by the ruling faction—and those who would keep the old religions and traditions of China alive. Inevitably, the two sides clash during what is known as the Boxer Rebellion of the late 1800s.

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang tells the story of the Chinese peasants who sought to defend their traditions against the “foreign devils.” They are partly driven by desperation from floods and famine that made life hard for everyone in China at the time.

Little Bao becomes the leader of a peasant army that calls itself the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist. This graphic novel gets to the heart of the conflict: a divided ruling class with a faction that embraced the values of people from the outside, prompting their own citizens to rise up against them.

In Boxers Yang brings this historic event to life through the eyes of those resisting the Christian influence. Tomorrow I’ll review his companion book, Saints, which sheds light on the lives of those who converted.

The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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