The Paper Menagerie: A Literary Analysis



  • Students will critically analyze The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu, focusing on authorial choices and use of literary devices.
  • Students will engage with research about major themes in the text concerning Chinese-American identity, family, culture, history, and assimilation, as well as connect it back to the author’s message.
  • Students will practice annotation, analysis, and writing skills.


Students will read The Paper Menagerie, a short story by Ken Liu about a bi-racial boy with an immigrant Chinese mother and his relationship to his Chinese culture, heritage, ancestry, identity while living in America. This story is representative of many untold experiences of children of immigrants and Chinese- American children struggling to discover their own identities when forced to separate themselves from their cultural backgrounds in the name of assimilation and normalcy. Students will focus on analyzing the author’s choices and use of 4 main literary devices– figurative language, characterization, imagery, and motif– and their effect on developing important themes throughout the story. Lesson can be taught in its entirety, or teacher can pick the activities most relevant to their class.


1. How does Ken Liu use literary devices and authorial choices to communicate themes of Chinese-American identity?
2. How does the force of assimilation impact the characters in the short story and their relationships?
3. How can you connect to Ken Liu’s writing of conflict with your cultural identity, regret and loss, and exploring your family history and culture?


Lesson plan created in partnership with Diversify Our Narrative