starlady: Aang with fire (aang can be asian & still save the world)
Yang, Gene Luen. Art by Gurihiru. Avatar: The Promise, Parts Two and Three. New York: Dark Horse Comics, 2012.

I really liked the first of Gene Yang's Avatar comics, and I really thought that these last two volumes, and in particular the third one, brought the trilogy home in a deft and wonderful way. Between the art and the writing, it feels like an extended episode of the show, and I really don't think we can ask for more than that. I also thought that the ending of this trilogy (spoilers: Iroh invents bubble tea) pointed the way toward Korra in an interesting way, where you can see the seeds for what has grown up in Republic City, but not the exact way things will go. And Zukoooooo. And Aaaaaang. Their FACES and their aaaaaaangst, OMG. The final interaction between Aang and Roku was heartbreaking, but obviously necessary.

I said after the first volume that Yang's handling of issues of colonialism and imperialism was interesting, and I think that he continued to do a pretty good job throughout. Obviously in a comic aimed at the middle grade age bracket he has to take a pretty light touch to the matter, which he does, and in particular this best-of-all-possible worlds spin on the end of empire presumes perfect economic equality between all parties involved, which doesn't match the way things turned out in our world, for certain. But all those caveats aside, I still agree with Yang's points and the way he makes them, and I love that he made them in the first place. My one real complaint is that I wish the comics were longer--Aang's dealing with the appropriation of his cultural heritage by his fangirls is brought up and put to bed entirely in the third volume, and again, I really liked what Yang said and the way he handled the issue, but it could have been even better done if it could have been done at greater length. As an expansion of the cartoon and a thoughtful engagement with some of the issues it raised, however, this series really couldn't be better.

But! There is another trilogy! With Zuko and Azula and their mother! I AM EXCITE.
starlady: Aang with fire (aang can be asian & still save the world)
Yang, Gene Luen (art by Gurihiru). Avatar: The Promise Part One. New York: Dark Horse, 2012.

In honor of World Book Day yesterday, I sat down and read a book. This one, in fact! It was so great to just read a book. I should do that more often.

Ahem.

I had the very great pleasure of hearing Gene Yang give a book talk when this, the first of the ATLA sequel comics, was published in February. The story takes place a year after the end of the cartoon, when Fire Lord Zuko revokes his promise to Earth King Kuei and Avatar Aang to support the "Harmony Restoration Movement," which is seeking to repatriate the citizens of the Fire Nation's colonies in the Earth Kingdom to their (ancestral) home. Zuko changes his mind after the daughter of the mayor of the city of Yu Dao, the oldest and richest of the colonies, tries to assassinate him, setting up a conflict with just about everyone, including Aang, who'd promised Zuko that he'd kill him if he ever decided that Zuko was turning into his father, Ozai.

Oh, Zuko.

For a kids' comic book, this is some surprisingly heavy stuff to deal with, and I think Yang, who's clearly done his research, is handling the complexities of these issues well so far. Hybridity and rootedness and foreignness and authenticity are all complicated things, and in the eye of the beholder as often as not. I also thought Yang did a bang-up job of getting the characters' voices right - it sounded just like an episode of the show in my head, and that's high praise. I laughed out loud at multiple points. Indeed, my one complaint is that the book is too short, and the second volume isn't coming until May.

I will say, passe the protestors' signs demanding Harmony now! in characters that are written left to right and have an exclamation point at the end, that to me the hybridity of A:TLA itself - that is an Asian-American, rather than an Asian or an American, show - is itself an example of what the comics are getting into here. Yu Dao was inspired by Qingdao, the German treaty port in northeast China, and Zuko is right when he points to Yu Dao's hybridity as the source of its wealth and advancement, just as Katara is right when she points out that that wealth and advancement aren't parceled out equally within the city. But it's Yu Dao and the cities like it that become the great cities of Korra's time (the Sino-Japanese for "republic", 共和国, literally means something like "together harmony realm"), and that is just one of the painful truths of the world we live in. You wouldn't have the one without the other, injustice and all.
starlady: Aang with fire (aang can be asian & still save the world)
Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith have a post up at Genreville, Say Yes to Gay YA:

The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.

I've seen a lot of people say some incisive things about this, and I wanted to emphasize two things in particular to bear in mind. As Seanan McGuire points out, the issue here isn't that there are YA books with queer characters out there. Buying, reading, and recommending the YA books with queer characters that have been published is an excellent way to show your support for queer characters in YA fiction, to be sure. But a few isolated exceptions that prove the rule don't disprove the rule. And characters who are subtextually rather than textually queer in YA books aren't examples of queer characters in YA books; they're examples of characters in YA books who may or may not be in the closet.

The other thing is that this particular instance is most obviously about a gay character in a YA book, but the same gatekeeping happens in regards to characters of color, to disabled characters, to just about any and all characters who aren't the normative straight, white protagonist that agents and publishers seem so happy to put out ad infinitum. None of the POV characters in Brown and Smith's novel are white, and I suspect quite strongly that even if all the POV characters were as straight as a yardstick, they'd still be having trouble finding representation. Maybe they wouldn't have been told explicitly that race was the reason; maybe they would have. It wouldn't change the effect of this systemic bias, regardless.

This is not about one particular book; nor is self-publishing this particular book going to solve the systemic biases in the publishing industry.


Data by [personal profile] lightgetsin

I was recently treated to another round of “disabled people need to just ask for accommodations, then they’d be given them,” with the usual accompaniments of “you shouldn’t be so angry” and “you should be nicer."

So I figured, okay. I know this is bullshit from a lifetime of experience, but let’s gather some data.

What I did
I gave myself 7 days. Every time during that 7 days I ran into a particular kind of inaccessibility, I wrote to the owner/relevant authority and asked them to fix it. I aimed for short, factual, informative request letters.



On a happier note, Gene Yang, who is going to be doing the post-series A:TLA comics, has an interview up at Racebending.com! I am SO EXCITED.
starlady: the cover from Shaun Tan's The Arrival, showing an aquanaut in suburbia (i'm a stranger here myself)
Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. New York: First Second, 2006.

I went to the Diversity in YA kick-off event in San Francisco two weekends ago, and Gene Yang's signature on my copy of this book says, "Keep reading comics!" No fear of the opposite happening, Gene.

This book won both the Printz and the Eisner and was the first graphic novel nominated for the National Book Award, which considering that it came out in 2006 says several things at once right there. At the DiYA event Yang mentioned that he basically had no input on the book being submitted for consideration for the Printz, which is also interesting; I wouldn't tag this book YA, though I wouldn't say it's not YA, either. Like the best comics and graphic novels, its appeal defies age.

The story itself is three separate, and then not-so-separate, stories: the first follows the Monkey King, and his rather drastic efforts at self-reinvention after a snub at a party, culminating in his joining the Journey to the West. The second follows young Jin Wang, a student at Oliphant High who has one best friend, Weh-chen, and who wishes he could be someone else. The third seems the most unrelated: it follows Danny, a white high school student whose perfect life is destroyed every year by the arrival of his cousin Chin-kee for his annual visit from China. Only in the final chapter is it revealed that they're all connected, in a brilliant and really unnerving way.

As you might expect from the title, but less so from my summary above, the story is about race and identity and immigration and assimilation and dominant versus minority culture and navigating that matrix. Yang's art is really funny, and so is his text; it took me this entry by [personal profile] esmenet to really register the multilingualness (hybridity? polyvocality?) of the text, but now that I think about it, yeah: it's one of many brilliant touches on Yang's part. There are levels and levels to this book, and I probably should reread it now that I know the ending, which is first devastating (and also a bit like a knife to the kidneys in that it's so smoothly done) and then hopeful.

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