Drawing, and specifically calligraphy, also offer the Taiwanese-born American author Belle Yang a spiritual escape, in her case from ‘Rotten Egg’, an abusive boyfriend-turned-stalker. Yang is used to being a free-spirited, independent Westernised woman, but she is forced to take refuge in the family home. And there begins her cautious reconnection to her Old World Chinese father, Baba, who wants her to understand more about his own grandfather’s ancestry in Manchuria. The strains between parent and child depicted here recall Art Spiegelman’s attempted reconciliation with his father in Maus. Yang applies the same practice of combining a father’s oral testimony of the past with her present-day autobiography. Forget Sorrow: An ancestral tale illuminates the tides of early twentieth-century Chinese history which sweep over one extended family, the House of Yang, from warlord battles and Japanese occupation to Soviet invasion and civil war. In successive generations, parallel tensions emerge between parents and their children over duties and desires, as bonds are stretched sometimes to breaking point. Coming afresh to graphic novels from making illustrated books for adults and children, Yang writes and draws the Chinese soul, capturing its phraseologies and philosophies. Her varied brushstrokes, from bold to dry, tap into a long tradition of ‘simplicity’ in Chinese art and notably the acute observations of everday life by master cartoonist Feng Zikai (1898-1975). By the redemptive conclusion, Yang’s newfound perspective allows her to fulfil the promise of her Chinese name, Xuan, which means ‘Forget Sorrow’.
Causes Belle Yang Supports
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