Boxers and Saints
|Boxers and Saints|
The cover of Boxers (left) and the cover of Saints (right), respectively.
|Publisher||First Second Books|
|Writer||Gene Luen Yang|
Boxers and Saints are two companion graphic novel volumes written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang. The publisher First Second Books released them on September 10, 2013. Together the two volumes have around 500 pages.
Boxers follows the story of Little Bao, a boy from Shandong (spelled "Shan-tung" in the story) who becomes a leader of the Boxer Rebellion. Saints follows the story of "Four-Girl", a girl from the same village who becomes a Catholic, adopts the name "Vibiana", and hopes to attain the glory of Joan of Arc.
Yang said that he wanted to do two volumes because he was not sure which side in the conflict were "good" or "bad" and he noticed connections between contemporary terrorists and the Boxers. Yang said "So in a lot of ways, I was trying to write the story of a young man who was essentially a terrorist, and I wanted him to be sympathetic, but I also didn't want the book to feel like I was condoning terrorism. So it was kind of a fine line." He explained that he needed two different characters so the reader can "see everything through". Yang outlined both books together and made the volumes separate.
Yang described the work as "definitely historical fiction". In Boxers Yang began including more history as the characters reach Beijing. The author said that his process in making the story was creating Bao, taking "just the bits and pieces that we do know about the beginnings of the Boxer Rebellion and weave it into his fictional life story."
The Austin Chronicle wrote that the books are "very personal and character-driven, which isn't necessarily what you might anticipate when you have 500 pages in front of you about the Boxer Rebellion."
- Bao - Becomes the leader of the boxer rebellion. Bao grows up in Shandong Province and starts a rebellion after his fellow villagers are killed by imperial authorities acting under the direction of foreign powers. As Bao continues his quest, he begins committing more gruesome killings. Jee Yoon Lee of Hyphen Magazine wrote that "As the story draws to an end, Yang shows Bao as a morally complicated hero whose decisions expose the inevitable tragedy of civil warfare." Yang wrote that he wanted to make his actions understandable but he did not want to justify them. Yang stated "The Boxers have a lot in common with many of today's extremist movements in the Middle East. Little Bao would probably be labeled a terrorist if he were real and alive today."
- Four-Girl/Vibiana - Chinese girl who converts to Catholicism. She was named "Four-Girl" due to her birth order. Many people around her call her "devil" so she thinks of herself one. She stumbles onto a group of Catholics, thinking it is "devil training". She initially comes for food, but becomes a Catholic and travels to the Legation Quarter to do her work. Bao kills her when she refuses to renounce Catholicism.
- Red Lantern Chu - A cooking oil salesperson and martial arts master, Chu serves as Bao's mentor. Yang found Chu in the book The Origins of the Boxer Uprising.
- Kong - A former thief, Kong and Vibiana have an odd relationship. Kong eventually tells Vibiana about his past, and how he ended up at the Semerian. He explains how he got his rat whisker scars, and why he is indebted to the priest, Father Bey. Vibiana suggest marriage teasingly. He later proposes, but she rejects him, saying she was over the idea, after hearing about the boxers, and is not willing to marry at such hard times, but indicates that she may have feelings for him. Kong then, (after some convincing) teaches her how to fight, so that she can be a Maiden Warrior. Kong later dies, shot in the head.
- Mei-wen - Bao's love interest and leader of the Red Lanterns, treasures the ancient library in Beijing. After Bao sets the library on fire, Mei-wen harshly criticizes him. Mei-wen goes into the library with a foreign scholar and attempts to salvage books until the library collapses, killing her.
- Father Bey - A French missionary working in China. Disgusted by church corruption in his own country, he decided to go to China after hearing largely false propaganda about Chinese religion. He first appears in Bao's village and smashes the idol of the local harvest god. After seeing this, Bao grows up with a general hatred of Europeans. Four-Girl, however, is inspired by his action to join the church and become a 'devil' herself. When she runs away from home Father Bey allows her to travel with him. He is eventually killed by the Society, along with all of his congregation.
- Dr. Won - An acupuncturist in Bao and Four-Girl's village who converts to Catholicism. He is a gentle man who embraces the non-violent side of his religion. He becomes Four-Girl's friend and introduces her to the Catholic faith. He introduces her to Father Bey when she tells him of her vision of Joan of Arc, and encourages her actions afterward. Father Bey, however, rejects Dr. Won when he finds he is an opium addict. Vibiana loses faith in him when she discovers this. He is killed by the Society trying to defend Father Bey.
- Joan of Arc- Joan is the spirit of the French heroine Joan of Arc. She appears around Vibiana and guides her through Catholicism, even on the day that Vibiana is killed.
Awards and nominations
- National Book Awards Finalist, Young People's Literature 2013 
- Booklist Top 10 Religion and Spirituality Books for Youth 2013 
- School Library Journal Best Books of the Year 2013
- 2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prize (Young adult literature) winner.
- Solomon, Dan. "One-Two Punch." Austin Chronicle. Friday September 20, 2013. Retrieved on October 4, 2013.
- Burns, Elizabeth. "Review: Boxers." School Library Journal. September 3, 2013. Retrieved on October 4, 2013.
- Ay-Leen the Peacemaker. "A Divided Nation in Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints." Tor Books, Macmillan Publishing. Monday August 26, 2013. Retrieved on October 4, 2013.
- Mayer, Peter. "'Boxers & Saints' & Compassion: Questions For Gene Luen Yang." National Public Radio. October 22, 2013. Retrieved on November 1, 2013.
- Lee, Jee Yoon. "Books: The Complicated Non-Heroic Lives of Heroes." Hyphen Magazine. September 26, 2013. Retrieved on October 4, 2013.
- "2013 National Book Award Finalist, Young People's Literature". Retrieved February 15, 2015.
- Cooper, Ilene (November 15, 2013). "Top 10 Religion and Spirituality Books for Youth: 2013". Retrieved February 15, 2015.
- "SLJ Best Books 2013 Fiction". November 21, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
- Kellogg, Carolyn (April 11, 2014). "Jacket Copy: The winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes are ...". LA Times. Retrieved April 14, 2014.