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Killing Great Grandfather

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.


 Youtube video of this graphic novel



6 Comment count
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Wow--this is amazing. I can

Wow--this is amazing. I can see the reason for your sleeplessness. I liked what you said about wanting to finish on time but also have it go on forwever. You are not only in the grips of a creative fervor but in the grips of a family story. Both too intense to let go of.

I've been reading so much about graphic novels, not that Watchmen is about to come out on screen. Such an amazing genre.

Thank you for sharing, Belle.



Jessica Barksdale Inclan

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I am procrastinating tonight

Trying to do everything but the graphic novel. Mostly long-delayed online publicity work. I need to read/watch the Watchman. I promised to give you a list of my faves and will do that by m' by. There are gorgeous, soulful works, like "Epileptic" by David B. Masterpiece. Don't miss "Persepolis." The latter with give you more insight into the upper crust of Iranian society than the newspapers.

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A friend sent me a copy of

A friend sent me a copy of "Persepolis" while I was living in Jordan.  Hit very, very close to home there, too.

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Hi, Ellen

At first glance, the art is not very sophisticated, but the more you read, you find that Satrapi was able to catch the expressions and emotions with a broad stroke of the brush.  I really took to the folk art feel of the scenes.

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About real lives

It is always so difficult to write about real lives, especially people who are ancestors. The story is heartwarming and gives an insight into how we as individuals develop over time. Without the subtle references to our backgrounds, we might have no history to speak about.

I liked the Shakespearean analogy of using the sidelight...like Chaplin, the Bard could transcend the moment into eternity. That is where your 'forever' comes from, I suppose.

Belle, this could be catharsis; it could be something you will internalise...invaluable it surely will be.



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Always great to hear from you

I'm dreaming of Turkey and lands east.  Reading Alexander the Great and Bloody at the moment.

I heard this on a documentary about Jesus of Nazareth soon after I read your above comment.  It is from the Gospel of Thomas:

If you bring forth what is within you,

What you bring forth will save you.

If you do not brng forth what is within you,

What you do not bring forth will destroy you.