A nuanced representation of being Asian and transnational in the contemporary U.S.

MESSY ROOTS

A GRAPHIC MEMOIR OF A WUHANESE AMERICAN

A Chinese American woman from Wuhan examines her multifaceted identity.

This autobiographical account opens in San Francisco in January 2020. Responding to xenophobic and racist attitudes brewing among sectors of American society as the Covid-19 virus spreads, the narrator recalls the Wuhan she knew as 3-year-old Yuyang, “with no internet and too much energy.” Comical sketches illustrate romps through rural landscapes with cousins and visits with her urban-dwelling grandparents, who nourished her with stories and food, before she is launched into the “strange, new world” of Texas. Yuyang celebrates her symbolic arrival as an American when her mother renames her Laura after the then–first lady. The narrative overlays immigrant community dynamics with the intersections of race, ethnicity, and gender in young adults’ identity development while drawing on Chinese cultural icons old and new, such as White Rabbit candies. Most compelling is Gao’s retelling of the legend of moon goddess Chang’e, who is able to “escape her suffocating home”—something Gao manages by attending college in a faraway state and encountering a diverse student body beyond the “white-washed” conformity of her high school. Gao comes out as queer and embraces her tangled roots as she continues writing her life story with pride and confidence. The dynamic, clean, and energetic artwork colored in soft tones features bold linework and ample white space. Splashes of red emphasize the emotional impact of many scenes.

A nuanced representation of being Asian and transnational in the contemporary U.S. (Graphic memoir. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-306777-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Small but mighty necessary reading.

THE NEW QUEER CONSCIENCE

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

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THEY CALLED US ENEMY

A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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