Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Great American Graphic Novels

Oh, how far the graphic novel has come.

Long gone are the days of comic books and limitations of superheroes or cartoon characters. Maus offered the graphic novel gravitas with its Pulitzer pedigree; more recently, Chris Ware and R. Crumb sustained the innovation–Ware in his dazzling, intricate storylines and Crumb in his artful, subversive content.

Writer and painter Belle Yang tells a fascinating story of recovering her Chinese heritage in Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale. Though the title evokes the hokiness of a Hallmark card, the graphic novel itself is an honest tale of an Americanized child in the 60’s, a horrendous ex-boyfriend/stalker, and Yang’s gradual embrace of her Chinese culture. More than a dozen years in the making, Forget Sorrow is reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis for its exquisite memoir in text and images.

Yang’s new graphic novel reminds me of the rich storytelling in Shortcomings, by Adrian Tomine. Both works tackle the invisibility of Asian Americans. And both artists offer an unflinching look at what it means to transcend seemingly opposite identities in favor of the embrace–and empowerment–of multiculturalism.


Filed under: art, asian america, writing, , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. barbara says:

    Hi Ricco! Good post. I just taught two graphic novels this semester in Philippine Studies — Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons, and J. Torres’s LOLA: A Ghost Story, and I have to say, they were both very rich in story and mythology (personal and cultural). I’ve heard of Belle Yang’s graphic novel; I’ll have to pick it up soon. Thanks!

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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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