I have to do it all over again. Kill my great grandfather. A friend tells me I am the reincarnation of Yang Junchen, who died in the middle of the great famine, unleashed by the Great Leap Forward. I came into the world in 1960 on the Island of Taiwan, where food was scanty, but I did not go hungry.
I am working on the final chapter of "Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale." My editor, Alane, said I cannot simply let the abuse and anguish suffered by the Patriarch after the Communist takeover be enacted off stage. I have to put the "murder" of a good man, a man who I love, front and center.
I've been sleepless, trying to work out the sequence of panels to depict his torment, his wandering in the wilderness, guided by his friend the Taoist beggar, leading him from one abandoned temple to another in search of shelter and food. I don't want to make it maudlin with exaggerations. I want it to ring true, even in this comic book format.
Yuan the Idiot is to Great Grandfather as the fool is to King Lear: the truthsayer and one of the angels in the storm.
I want to finish this book on time, yet I also wish it would go on forever. I appreciate the vehicle of pain, which pulls me to write/draw and tell the tragedy, but I also want to move beyond the sleepless nights and the heartache for an ancestor who deserved to live warm, dry and full-bellied in his last decade.
As I read the book, "Revolutionary Horizons," by my friend, Sinclair Thomson of NYU, a history of Bolivian land distribution, I have a keener awareness for those displaced, the fleeing landowners. We take sides when we look back on history and decide to take the part of the Indians who were oppressed by the ruling elites. But flesh and blood people's suffering are much more intricate, multi-dimensional than historians are able show us. It is not black and white, the good against the ugly. There is pain on both side of a revolution
Below, my grandmother and great aunt go begging on a winter day. I try to inject humor into the pain so that the pain by contrast looks darker.
P.S.--I know my handwriting is atrocious. The print will be substituted with a Belle font, once we develop them with a typeface designer.
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