Forget Sorrow

forgetsorrow

Belle Yang tells her story of fleeing from a stalker boyfriend, known as ‘Rotten Egg’ in the book, to her parents’ home, where she is isolated and lonely. She begins to talk to her father about his past, his boyhood in China, living as part of a large extended family with his grandparents and many uncles and aunts, struggling with poverty and hunger and family disputes of all kinds, then later with the Communist oppression. Listening to his story and telling his story in her own way makes her relationship with her father blossom.

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Yang’s narration is a bit confusing as the storyline moves from brother to brother, and from current to past. There are many characters and the drawing style doesn’t change despite the timeline shift so it sometimes took me a while to realize that a certain comment was made by her father in present time, for example. That’s probably why I started and stopped this graphic novel a few times, when it usually takes me just a couple of days to read most graphic novels.

But I really enjoyed her illustration style, which is at once modern and traditional. As she explained in an interview with Memoirville, she explained that she used a brush as well as black washes and watercolour, which “expresses our culture, history, and language the best”.

Although we are of different generations, I could understand where Yang was coming from. As a young adult, she just wanted to get away from her culture, to be ‘American’, and it was only later in life that she wanted to know about her history, her family, her heritage. While I’m not American (I’ve lived in the US for the past few years but am still a Singaporean), I was desperate as a teen to move away from my Chinese-ness (my great-grandparents were from China). I hated the Chinese lessons that we were forced to take in school. I didn’t appreciate my more Chinese-educated grandparents, especially my grandfather, who loved his Chinese tea (he collected Chinese tea sets and on Sundays when we visited, there would also be a variety of Chinese tea to round off the night) and Chinese paintings. One of his own paintings hangs in my house today, a bird perched on a tree eating a pomegranate. And while I don’t know much about Chinese tea, I do really like to drink tea and have a drawer stuffed full of different types of tea (including several types of Chinese teas).

I guess this is my roundabout way of saying that while Yang’s graphic novel wouldn’t be one that makes my top ten list, it affected me in its own subtle way, making me think of my late grandfather, and of my own previous reluctance to accept my heritage.
Global Women of Color
I read this book for the Global Women of Colour challenge (challenge page)

Belle Yang is an artist and a writer. 

Born in Taiwan, Belle Yang spent part of her childhood in Japan. At age seven she immigrated to the United States with her family. She attended Stirling University in Scotland, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in biology but went on to study art at Pasadena Art Center College of Design and the Beijing Institute of Traditional Chinese Painting.

belleyangShe worked and traveled in China for three years and returned to the United States late in 1989 after the Tiananmen Massacre.

 

Bibliography                                                     

Adult non-fiction

Baba: A Return to China Upon My Father’s Shoulders
The Odyssey of a Manchurian
Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale

Picture books

Chili-Chili-Chin-Chin
Hannah Is My Name
Always Come Home to Me
Foo the Flying Frog of Washtub Pond

 

Angel and Faith

I’ve been having such a fun time following Stella Matutina’s Buffy-thon. And have (of course) been rewatching Buffy right from the beginning again which is itself, a ball. It reminds me of why the first time I tried Buffy and it didn’t quite gel with me. Buffy grows on you, but quite a bit of that first season isn’t as witty or as interesting as the later seasons.

And when I saw Angel and Faith available on Netgalley I was curious. I never managed to complete the Angel TV series, making it as far as Season three and somehow my interest faded. I guess I’m not all that much of an Angel fan.

Anyway the Angel and Faith graphic novel series seems to continue where Buffy Season 8, i.e. the graphic novel series, left off. I’ll try not to give away too much so let’s just say that Season 8 changed the Buffyverse. And in Angel and Faith, they are trying to deal with what happened, especially Angel who had a pretty damn big role in Season 8.

Ok hopefully that  didn’t spoil things for you. As you might guess, it’s kind of hard to talk about Angel and Faith without revealing too much about the back story. So perhaps I should talk about Angel and Faith. They’re not exactly my most favouritest of characters. I’m rather fond of Willow, but not right from the start. And I have a soft spot for Spike. And of course Giles. Faith grows on you, but Angel, well, for me it’s a neutral thing.

Still, Angel and Faith Vol 1 was a lot of fun. The two characters bounce off each other well. Definitely promising, and I’ll keep an eye out for more.

The Night Bookmobile

The Night Bookmobile made me dream. It’s a graphic novel about a woman out on a late night walk (she’s quarreled with her fella) and happens across a bookmobile. She discovers that within this odd sight is everything she’s ever read. From all her books to her own diary. I gasped when I read that.  For that is truly a reader’s dream! I wanted to find a night bookmobile of my own. I imagined the forgotten treasures I would find in my own version. My childhood diaries, Archie comics, picture books, magazines, my favorite series and books, books, books of all sorts. What fun!

Alexandra is equally smitten. She seeks out the bookmobile again and again, but it never turns up and it is years till she sees it again. In the meantime, she goes to library school and becomes a librarian herself, with the dream of one day working in the night bookmobile. And all the time reading, not just for herself, but also for her personal collection: “Like a pregnant woman eating for two, I read for myself and the librarian.”

I’ve never quoted from a graphic novel before but here were such gems:

“In the same way that perfume captures the essence of a flower, these shelves of books were a distillation of my life.”
“Each spine was an encapsulated memory, each book represented hours, days of pleasures, of immersion in words.”

It is such a dreamy story. But the ending tossed me out of my dreamy state – I won’t spoil it for you, if you haven’t read it yet. I still wouldn’t mind coming across my own night bookmobile though.

The Little Prince (graphic novel)

I remember reading The Little Prince many years ago, and reading it again and again. I don’t remember if someone had given my sister and I that book or if it was something my parents had purchased. But there it was, on our bookshelves. There was something so lost and sad and dreamy and sweet about this book and its lovely illustrations, and those illustrations were forever associated with that story. Somewhere along the way, I never reread it again, so it’s been years since I last picked up the book.

So here comes along a graphic novel adaptation of the book, and when I first saw it on Estella’s Revenge, I was torn – would reading it tear apart those lovely childhood memories of The Little Prince? But I was curious, and those colourful illustrations drew me in. I signed up for NetGalley but was disappointed to learn that at the time, there wasn’t a way to read galleys on the iPad. And I hate reading books, even graphic novels, on the computer. But now with the Bluefire app which supports Adobe ebook DRM, I can. I was quite pleased.

But back to The Little Prince and this graphic novel version. It is vivid and colourful and is bound to draw any reader, whether new or old, into the story. The new style of drawing does take a while to get used to but it was totally refreshing to read this book again, and in a graphic novel format. And it was that whimsical, sad, wonderful story that I remembered. Just with more colour and more weird, but delightfully so, images.

 

Read: American Born Chinese

I am Chinese. My great-grandparents were born in China and migrated to Singapore all those years ago. Singapore’s population is about 75% Chinese, 13% Malay, 4% Indian and the rest are officially termed ‘Others’. I think because of that, I wasn’t fully aware of what being ‘Chinese’ meant, until I moved to the United Kingdom to do a Master’s degree – partly because I was my degree was in Globalisation, Ethnicity and Culture, so a lot of the classes had to do with diaspora, identity, the self (I wrote several papers trying to analyse the Singaporean identity even). As I grew more aware of being ‘Chinese’, being ‘Asian’, I found it curious that I felt that I had more in tune with my European classmates (British, German and Italian – I was the only non-European in my class) than my Asian flatmates (I lived in university-assigned graduate housing, with 2 Japanese and 1 Thai). Growing up in Singapore, I spoke, read and wrote in English both at home and at school (except for the mandatory Chinese classes and when speaking to my grandparents whom we only saw on weekends). I absorbed ‘western’ music, TV shows, films and books, and only on occasion did I watch a Hong Kong/Taiwanese/Chinese film or TV series (I don’t think I read a Chinese language book willingly until Jimmy Liao’s 向左走·向右走 [Turn Left, Turn Right], a very sweet illustrated love story made into a movie starring Gigi Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro).

So I think I led a bit of a conflicted life, as I’m sure did many other Singaporeans. And this was made more evident to me when I entered a rather ‘Chinese’ junior college (that’s like Grade 11 and 12 for the US) and was seen as someone who ‘jiak kantang’ (a Singlish term that literally means ‘eat potato’, as opposed to eating rice, that is, being more westernised). I’m glad I went to this school though, it definitely made me more appreciative of this Chinese person I am, and, thanks to an awesome Chinese teacher, did pretty well at this ‘mother tongue’ of mine (and learnt to like Chinese music a lot more).

This is a rather convoluted way of saying that, this graphic novel made me think about my own experience growing up as a Chinese Singaporean, and what it must be like to grow up Chinese in this country that I now reside in.

Anyway, American Born Chinese has three storylines. The first is that of the Monkey God. I was delighted by the use of this tale. It was one I grew up with (one of the rare Chinese TV series I watched). I remember following a China-made TV series called Journey To The West (西游记), which was kinda cheesy but quite fun.

The second story line is of young Jin Wang who’s trying to fit in at his school and his white classmates. The last tale is that of Danny, the all-American teenager whose cousin Chin-Kee (a purposefully buck-toothed, stereotyped Chinese – I can’t quite help but admire Yang’s use of this character) comes to visit. The three tales cleverly converge towards the end, for an interesting, quite satisfying finish. American Born Chinese is about identity and friendship and learning to accept yourself for who you are, whatever your ethnicity.