(06-30) 04:00 PDT Carmel - -- Author-painter Belle Yang is watching her 82-year-old father read her new graphic novel, "Forget Sorrow." Using a red pen and Chinese characters, Zu-Wu Joseph Yang adds more memories to the black-and-white drawings depicting his life in Old China.
"Here," he said, pointing to an image of himself sleeping while tied to river bamboo as he was fleeing the communists. "In the morning I would bite my hand to see if I was still alive - it was so cold!"
A detail she would have drawn had he told her, she chided.
After 14 years of literary rejection, rewrites and more rewrites, Yang's ancestral story is earning strong praise for its epic yet intimate account of one family's hardships in 20th century China.
Yang also depicts her struggle to become an artist while seeking sanctuary at her parents' home from an abusive boyfriend.
One way the parents soothed their child was to lock the doors and distract her with ancestral stories of surviving difficulty - poverty, famine and political oppression.
Yang, 50, spoke with The Chronicle during a sit-down in Carmel, where she lives with her parents.
Q: How has working on "Forget Sorrow" changed you?
Causes Belle Yang Supports
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