Drawing New Color Lines

Drawing New Color Lines: Transnational Asian American Graphic Narratives

Edited by Monica Chiu
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Drawing New Color Lines
    Book Description:

    The global circulation of comics, manga, and other such visual mediums between North America and Asia produces transnational meanings no longer rooted in a separation between “Asian” and “American.” Drawing New Color Lines explores the culture, production, and history of contemporary graphic narratives that depict Asian Americans and Asians. It examines how Japanese manga and Asian popular culture have influenced Asian American comics; how these comics and Asian American graphic narratives depict the “look” of race; and how these various representations are interpreted in nations not of their production. By focusing on what graphic narratives mean for audiences in North America and those in Asia, the collection discusses how Western theories about the ways in which graphic narratives might successfully overturn derogatory caricatures are themselves based on contested assumptions; and illustrates that the so-called odorless images featured in Japanese manga might nevertheless elicit interpretations about race in transnational contexts. With contributions from experts based in North America and Asia, Drawing New Color Lines will be of interest to scholars in a variety of disciplines, including Asian American studies, cultural and literary studies, comics and visual studies.

    eISBN: 978-988-8313-24-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction: Visual Realities of Race
    (pp. 1-24)
    Monica Chiu

    The eponymous Japanese Canadian protagonist in Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s graphic narrativeSkimis visually contrasted against her blonde-haired, fair-skinned Canadian peers. However, Western-based assumptions of the challenges she faces because of her racial difference are overlooked by many Japanese readers, who find Skim’s image disconcerting in the novel’s Japanese translation. An Orientalist reading of character Chin-kee in Gene Yang’sAmerican Born Chinese—a buck-toothed, yellow-faced high school student speaking pidgin English and sporting a queue in a twenty-first-century classroom—is lost on Chinese students in Mainland China. The irony of Chin-kee’s representation is overlooked by these readers in...

  7. Section I: Comics, Caricatures, and Race in North America
    • 1 A Moment Outside of Time: The Visual Life of Homosexuality and Race in Tamaki and Tamaki’s Skim
      (pp. 27-48)
      Monica Chiu

      Through the prose of Mariko Tamaki (author) and the art of Jillian Tamaki (illustrator), the graphic narrativeSkimvisually illustrates the hidden costs of being homosexual and Japanese Canadian in North America in the last decade of the twentieth century. On the one hand,Skimis a young adult novel about typical adolescent anxiety over peer acceptance; on the other, its visual rather than prose emphasis on sexuality and race presents a unique approach to thinking about teen outsiderism through absence and a strategic assembly of images. I off er the following example as an introduction to the novel’s juxtaposition...

    • 2 Asian/American Postethnic Subjectivity in Derek Kirk Kim’s Good as Lily, Same Difference and Other Stories, and Tune
      (pp. 49-68)
      Ruth Y. Hsu

      Derek Kirk Kim received the Ignatz in 2003, an award that recognizes promise in new graphic storytellers. The following year, he was given both the prestigious Eisner and Harvey forSame Difference and Other Stories.¹ In 2007, Kim published Good as Lily, with Jesse Hamm as the illustrator. Then, in 2011, Kim launchedMythomania,a web-based video series that Kim writes and directs and that features amateur actors and that he describes as a parallel universe toTune,a web-based comics series with art by Les McClaine. Andy Go, the name of the main character in both series, experiences similar...

    • 3 The Model Minority between Medical School and Nintendo: Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham’s Level Up
      (pp. 69-86)
      Lan Dong

      At the beginning of the new millennium, Soo-Young Chin, Peter X. Feng, and Josephine Lee discussed the increasing visibility of Asian American culture both inside and outside academia and consequently the growing complexity required to understand and assess Asian American cultural production. They raised key questions about what characterizes Asian American cultural production and how we understand, experience, and analyze Asian American culture (270). As Chin, Feng, and Lee have broadly defined it, the term “cultural production” refers to “processes by which certain subjects (Asian Americans and others) produce material objects, actions, and interactions; it pertains to the interpretation of...

    • 4 In Plain Sight: Reading the Racial Surfaces of Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings
      (pp. 87-106)
      Ralph E. Rodriguez

      From the mid-1980s to the present, volumes such asMaus,Watchmen,Persepolis, andFun Homehave piqued the reading public’s interest in graphic novels. They have caused non-aficionados to wake up and see that the Comics medium can take on weighty material that speaks to life’s ethical, moral, existential, and aesthetic concerns just as well as can capital “L” literature. In addition to mainstream appeal, graphic novels and comics continue to gain ground in the academy. Yale University Press has published numerous volumes about the medium, including interviews with key artists and crucial histories of the form, as well as...

  8. Section II: North American Representations of Race across the Pacific
    • 5 When the Monkey King Travels across the Pacific and Back: Reading Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese in China
      (pp. 109-124)
      Kuilan Liu

      Transformation is the key element adding thematic as well as structural unity to Gene Luen Yang’s award-winning coming-of-age graphic novelAmerican Born Chinese. The book artfully weaves together stories of three characters. The realistic character Jin Wang, of Taiwanese parentage, moves from Chinatown to a predominantly non-Chinese suburb, falls in love with a white American girl, and wrestles throughout the novel with his identity as a Chinese American among non-Chinese American peers. The mythological Monkey King, banished from heaven because of his lowly status yet trained to be a deity, finally comes to terms with his simian, not deitic, identity....

    • 6 “Maybe It’s Time for a Little History Lesson Here”: Autographics and Ann Marie Fleming’s The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam
      (pp. 125-144)
      Stacilee Ford

      Over the past several years many undergraduate students have come to rely more readily on various graphic narrative-type representations of history. The “cartoonification” of multiple interpretations of the past has become a way for them to distill large amounts of information into “chewable bites” as well as to help them remember facts and ideas that they might forget without a visual reminder of meanings. Texts ranging fromAmerica: A Cartoon History,Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism, andUnderstanding Postfeminism(and a host of general histories focusing on various events and time periods) are used not only...

    • Plates
      (pp. None)
    • 7 Emotions as Landscapes: Specters of Asian American Racialization in Shaun Tan’s Graphic Narratives
      (pp. 145-164)
      Jeffrey Santa Ana

      Shaun Tan is an award-winning author of graphic narratives that depict experiences of migration, estrangement, and historical memory. In his best-known graphic narrative,The Arrival(2006), Tan portrays the story of one migrant’s passage to another country, illustrating the sense of displacement, bewilderment, and awe that international migrants experience when arriving in a strange new land they yearn to call home. The story unfolds through black-and-white drawings whose sepia tones call up memories of migrants in the Western world from bygone eras. It begins with a two-page grid of faces that bear a haunting resemblance to photographs taken of immigrants...

    • 8 From Fan Activism to Graphic Narrative: Culture and Race in Gene Luen Yang’s Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Promise
      (pp. 165-188)
      Tim Gruenewald

      From 2005 to 2008, three seasons of the animated television seriesAvatar: The Last Airbender(henceforthAvatar) were first broadcast on Nickelodeon. Although the show premiered on a children’s channel, its reach extended far beyond that demographic. It became a global hit and spawned a vast fandom in the United States and beyond. Among the fans were graphic novelists Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim. Following the commercial and critical failure of M. Night Shyamalan’s 2010 live-action film adaptationThe Last Airbender(henceforthAirbender), Yang was hired to write a graphic novel trilogy, which was published by Dark Horse...

    • 9 (Re)Collecting Vietnam: Vietnamization, Soldier Remorse, and Marvel Comics
      (pp. 189-208)
      Cathy J. Schlund-Vials

      In his January 20, 1972 State of the Union address, President Richard Milhous Nixon triumphantly issued the following pronouncement to Congress and the nation: “As our involvement in the war in Vietnam comes to an end, we must now go on to build a generation of peace.” Soon after, the thirty-seventh Commander-in-Chief averred:

      We will maintain a nuclear deterrent adequate to meet any threat to the security of the United States or our allies. We will help other nations develop the capability of defending themselves. We will faithfully honor all our treaty commitments. We will defend our interests, whenever and...

    • 10 The Awesome and Mundane Adventures of Flor de Manila y San Francisco
      (pp. 209-224)
      Catherine Ceniza Choy

      It’s easy to notice, then overlook, the Filipino immigrant nurse. Her ubiquity in US hospitals lends her identity to stereotyping: natural caregiver, docile worker, foreign labor competition. Take for instance District of Columbia council member Marion Barry’s recent rant that pitted Filipino immigrant nurses against African Americans. When trying to explain how to get more African Americans employed in the district in April 2012, he proclaimed, “[I]f you go to the hospital now, you’ll find a number of immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines. And no offense, but let’s grow . . .our own nurses” (Craig). In...

  9. Section III: Manga Goes West and Returns
    • 11 The “Japaneseness” of OEL Manga: On Japanese American Comics Artists and Manga Style
      (pp. 227-244)
      Angela Moreno Acosta

      Japanese manga¹ have been well received outside of Japan, especially among young people, some of whom aspire to be manga artists using “manga style” in their comics. In North America, these comics are called “OEL” (original English language) manga. Many OEL manga artists voice a fascination with “Japan,” which, upon closer inspection, is mostly equated with manga conventions of graphic storytelling. This refers, first and foremost, to the deployment of a highly codified mode of expression which favors a shared “visual language”¹ over idiosyncratic style and narration. It also entails an enormous variety of page layouts, the inclusion of speed...

    • 12 Manga-fying Yang’s American Born Chinese
      (pp. 245-256)
      Jaqueline Berndt

      Thierry Groensteen argues that “the narrative techniques and processes that are used in manga give the reader the feeling of being immersed in the action, whereas Western comics create a more distant relation between the reader and the narrative” (27). It goes without saying that both “Western” and “Eastern” graphic narratives escape such generalization. However, Angela Moreno Acosta’s redrawing of one sequence from Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese visualizes what has come to dominate the global image of manga, including Groensteen’s, namely the assumption that this kind of comics is particularly qualified for highlighting emotions, moods, and private interpersonal...

    • 13 Skim as Girl: Reading a Japanese North American Graphic Novel through Manga Lenses
      (pp. 257-278)
      Jaqueline Berndt

      In recent years, graphic narratives¹ in general and manga in particular have attracted critical attention from a variety of fields, including media and globalization research as well as Japanese, gender, and ethnic studies. This broadening of topic-oriented interest usually leads to two lines of contestation, one pertaining to manga-specific expertise and the other to culturally divergent mediascapes as contexts of productions and use. Taking a typical case of discordance—the ethnic identity of manga characters—opinions differ notoriously as to whether mangaesque faces and physiques are to be regarded as “stateless” (mukokuseki) or “Caucasian.” The latter position may meet manga...

    • 14 Queering Manga: Eating Queerly in 12 Days
      (pp. 279-298)
      Laura Anh Williams

      In the past twenty years, taking Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novelMaus(1991) as the bellwether, American audiences have seen the proliferation and legitimation of graphic narratives as a literary genre, including texts both written by and about gays and lesbians, as well as by and about Asian Americans. These visual literary genres have arisen at the virtual occlusion of Asian American gay and lesbian graphic narrative. A cursory search into each topic might yield articles about Gene Luen Yang’s racial coming-of-age graphic novelAmerican Born Chinese(2006) on the one hand, and scholarship on lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s...

    • 15 Conveying New Material Realities: Transnational Popular Culture in Asian American Comics
      (pp. 299-320)
      Shan Mu Zhao

      In the 2011 filmThe Green Hornet, starring Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou as Kato, there is a short scene depicting Kato’s apartment as he watches the television. The décor of his apartment is clearly visible: a Chinese decorative knot, ink brush calligraphy, and a miniature terracotta warrior. By contrast, in the award winning graphic novelAmerican Born Chineseby Gene Luen Yang, the narrative streams set in contemporary times feature very little décor that would qualify as “Chinese” in the same way; instead, it features items such as Transformers toys and bubble tea. Instead of reflecting the everyday practices...

  10. Index
    (pp. 321-336)