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.