forget sorrow: an ancestral tale by belle yang

Fourteen years in the making, Belle Yang's new graphic novel Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale is a multi-generational true-life family history, telling both her own story and the saga of her ancestors. It's a graphic memoir, sort of in the vein of Maus and Persepolis. Here the review from Kirkus:
East meets West in this occasionally playful yet profoundly moving graphic memoir.

Though she has drawn from her life in her popular children's books (Foo, the Flying Frog of Washtub Pond, 2009, etc.), Yang has never offered the level of psychological reflection and familial revelation shown here. The subtitle, "An Ancestral Tale," tells only half the story. The author narrates her own story, which encompasses the story of her father, who tells the story of his ancestors that his daughter then mediates through her artistry. The impetus for the project is the stalking of the thoroughly modern and Americanized author-then a recent college graduate-by a former boyfriend referred to throughout as "Rotten Egg." To protect herself from what appears to be the real threat of physical harm, she retreats to the home of her far more traditional parents, who emigrated from China before her birth.

She also makes a pilgrimage to her family's homeland, where she attends the Academy of Traditional Chinese Painting and experiences the late 1980s political upheaval and repression firsthand. Returning to her family's house in California, where her parents claim that she has wasted her education because of her bad boyfriend experiences, she coaxes stories from her father on his family, which are filled with tales of familial conflict and oppression that resonate with her own feelings of living in a prison imposed by circumstances. It's a tale of Taoism and Buddhism, with the meditative state wondrously captured by the artist, and of the tension between the seeming passivity that spirituality appears to instill in some and the personal ambitions of others. The narrative seamlessly shifts between present and past, and between America and China, mixing the intimacy of a memoir with the artist's visual allusions to such sources as King Lear and The Scream.

A transformational experience for author and reader alike. --Kirkus (Starred) Review, Feb. 15, 2010

The book, which is out this week, sounds like a deeply personal work. I can't wait to pick it up. Check out this Wall Street Journal video interview with author Belle Yang, who talks about the long personal and professional journey she took to complete Forget Sorrow: Graphic Novel Details A Family's History in China.

Short notice, but if you're in New York, Belle Yang will be doing a book signing tonight at Giant Robot New York. Here are some details:
Forget Sorrow book signing by Belle Yang
Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Giant Robot Gallery
437 East 9th Street Between 1st Ave. & Ave. A, in the East Village
New York, New York 10009
212) 674-GRNY (4769) | grny.net

Giant Robot is proud to celebrate the release of Forget Sorrow with a book signing by Belle Yang.

Belle Yang is the author of the popular illustrated books Hannah Is My Name, The Odyssey of a Manchurian, and Baba: A Return to China upon My Father's Shoulders. The celebrated author and illustrator combines her talents in her newest book and long-awaited graphic memoir debut, Forget Sorrow. An Ancestral Tale.

Best known for her popular adult illustrated books and for being the subject of the award-winning PBS documentary titled My Name Is Belle, Yang started drawing her memoir during a particularly dark and fearful time when she was forced to confine herself to her parents home to elude an abusive ex-boyfriend turned stalker. A modern American woman suddenly wholly dependent on her old world Chinese parents, Belle found a means of spiritual escape through practicing calligraphy and asking her father, Baba, with whom she constantly fought, to tell her stories about his family and life growing up in Manchuria.
For more information, go to the GRNY website here. And the Facebook event page here. For more information about Belle Yang and Forget Sorrow, visit the author's website here. Also take a look at her blog, which includes a lot of behind-the-scenes info about the process of writing and drawing the book, here.

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