Enjoyable enough as place porn for Taiwan-heads. I felt that the mystery/thriller story could have been pretty good too, if I'd been able to care evenEnjoyable enough as place porn for Taiwan-heads. I felt that the mystery/thriller story could have been pretty good too, if I'd been able to care even a little bit about the protagonist. But he was just...empty. I feel like the author tried too hard to make him an "ordinary guy"; especially compared with the other characters, who were mostly caricatures. The crazy nerd loser, the crazy obsessive rich bitch, the manic pixie dream girl. Meanwhile, Julia, clearly the most interesting of the bunch, is dead the whole time. Too bad....more
**spoiler alert** On the whole, I really liked this series! I love Gene Yang's work, I love this artist's style, and there were times when they did a**spoiler alert** On the whole, I really liked this series! I love Gene Yang's work, I love this artist's style, and there were times when they did a really excellent job of recreating the feel of the action and dialogue of the show in comic form. I do have a few nitpicks:
-I'm not sure how I feel about the way Aang and Katara's relationship is handled. But then, that was one of the aspects of the show's finale that I didn't care for either. It's a shame because for the most part I actually liked how they handled the relationship throughout the show--it's just the way they wrapped it up that I didn't like. I think what bothers me is that the whole show is so much about the power and importance of friendship, but at the very end it swerved into the territory of placing romantic relationships on a pedestal, as somehow more important than other types of relationships. And in the comic, having Aang and Katara suddenly with new pet names for each other--while I get it's supposed to be humorous--seems like an extension of that. As if saving the world together AS FRIENDS wasn't enough--suddenly what they mean to each other has changed so much that they need new names for each other. I don't know. It rang false to me.
-Still uncomfortable with Toph's bullying-can-make-you-stronger method of teaching. This was something that bothered me in the show as well, in the episode where Aang learns earthbending. I love Toph and her brashness, but I think it's really irresponsible for the writers to send the message that sometimes people just need to be bullied into overcoming challenges. Nope.
-A linguistic nitpick wrt to the Avatar Fanclub Girls, and the one character in particular: THAT'S NOT HOW UPTALK WORKS!!!!!!!!1111 Guess what, relying on linguistic stereotypes to make teen girls look silly just makes you look like an ass.
Finally, a musing: As I was rewatching the series for the jillionth time recently, I was thinking about the show's emphasis on friendship, and how it seems like Aang has to do something no Avatar before him has, which is to stop a genuine world war and do so as a child, without the benefit of years of training and experience. And how it's utterly clear that he would never be able to do that if it weren't for his friends. I mean, we don't know that much about the past Avatars, we don't know if they had close friends and other relationships, but they almost always appear as these solitary, almost superhuman figures. That got me thinking about Aang as representing a new *kind* of Avatar, a shift from the old order to the new. So then Aang and Roku's conversation at the end, when Aang says that the world is changing and that *his* world is made up first and foremost of people he cares about? Yeah. I love it when my speculations are spot-on....more
I wanted to be more excited about this book than I was. I guess, based on the subtitle, I expected it to deal more with race than it actually did (basI wanted to be more excited about this book than I was. I guess, based on the subtitle, I expected it to deal more with race than it actually did (basically not at all). On the other hand, I guess it's a good thing to have a comic starring a mixed-race Asian character who just is, without it being a big deal. Overall, the story was pretty entertaining, with some laugh-out-loud moments. Also, I liked Mayumi--although in some ways she fit into "Japanese girlfriend" stereotypes, I thought Chao successfully played with those stereotypes while at the same time creating a character with humor and agency....more
I thought this was pretty good, and promising as the start of a series! The bad characters are a little transparently evil for my taste, but the goodI thought this was pretty good, and promising as the start of a series! The bad characters are a little transparently evil for my taste, but the good characters are sympathetic and believable. I was a little surprised how gory some of the violence was, particularly in the beginning...was I reading such graphic descriptions when I was 10? Maybe, I can't remember.
I definitely want to check out the rest of the series....more
So, I guess I was expecting/wanting more of a focus on (individual) identity aspects of panethnicity, while this book is really a more numbers-based hSo, I guess I was expecting/wanting more of a focus on (individual) identity aspects of panethnicity, while this book is really a more numbers-based history of panethnic organization at the institutional level. So it was rather drier than I was expecting and not so easy-reading (as evidenced by the fact that it's less than 200 pages and I've been reading it since June). Still, I think it'll be a useful reference to me in future as I continue to work on Asian-American issues....more
**spoiler alert** I have mixed feelings. I loved the *premise* of this book, and I feel like the beginning and the ending were really strong. The midd**spoiler alert** I have mixed feelings. I loved the *premise* of this book, and I feel like the beginning and the ending were really strong. The middle, I was like, eh. I am a prose snob, okay, and I am very easily tripped up by any small pits or bumps in the writing; the more there are, the less able I am to get into the story. I don't mean to suggest that the prose in Silver Phoenix is horrible; far from it. At times, it's quite beautiful; I think the descriptions of scenery are quite good, and people were absolutely right about the food porn; I had to put the book down several times because I was drooling so severely. The action scenes are also generally well done. But other times, especially when the author is trying to portray Ai Ling's FEELINGS (and they are FEELINGS, in caps), the sentences seem randomly strung-together; I get what the author is trying to do, most of the time, it just seems like not quite the right way to go about it.
The pacing has some issues, as well; I found the marriage scene *excruciating*. In part, this was because I was thoroughly creeped out--which was as it should be. But the description of the ceremony, and the feast, and the--let's call it what it is--attempted rape went on and on and on, and the whole time I was squirming, thinking, "Aren't you going to *do* something already?" We keep getting descriptions of how agonizing it all is for Ai Ling, and how she must bide her time, but it isn't at all clear what she's biding her time *for* until quite late in the scene. I guess maybe I'm supposed to assume, "Oh, she's going to enter her spirit and kill him," but the author seems strangely reluctant to make any explicit mention of Ai Ling's plan. To me, it seems like this is something she would constantly be thinking about--can she do it? Will she be strong enough? What will happen if his spirit is stronger than hers? Should she try to distract him by acting compliant? &c. &c. The creepy badtouch drags on so long that the actual struggle/killing seems oddly brief and anticlimactic.
I should also say that I was really confused about who Zhong Ye was and why he had so much influence for much of the book. I feel like the details of Ai Ling's father's connection to both Chen Yong and Zhong Ye should have been made clear earlier in the story, rather than at the end. It would have raised the stakes, made the tension that much more. I can understand why Ai Ling and Chen Yong shouldn't have known those details until the end, but that doesn't mean the reader shouldn't. Then the aforementioned confusion could have been avoided.
I don't mean to only talk about the negatives! I think I was a little disappointed because I had really high hopes for this book, and some things just didn't work for me. But this is Cindy Pon's first published work, and it's a solid debut effort. I fully expect that her writing will get stronger as she goes, and I'm definitely looking forward to finding out what happens in the next book. I particularly want to see more character development for Ai Ling; she's still immature in some ways, but she has a lot of potential....more
Picked this book up after visiting MOCA yesterday. On the whole, I really like the premise and execution: natural, unglamorized, unexoticized portraitPicked this book up after visiting MOCA yesterday. On the whole, I really like the premise and execution: natural, unglamorized, unexoticized portraits of multiracial people with Asian descent, along with short, handwritten responses from subjects to the question "What are you?" The self-identified ethnic background of each subject is also given, but there are no percentages, no pie charts, no arrows or labels saying, "Here's the Malay part," or, "This is the Dutch part".
What the portraits really make astonishingly (and refreshingly) clear is that all mixed people with Asian descent do not look a certain way. Some people are more or less beautiful than others. Some people could "pass" as one race or the other; others will get the question "What are you?" from almost everyone they meet. Some people are old, some are young, some have tattoos, some are of ambiguous gender. It's also interesting to see the varied ways that subjects chose to respond to the question "What are you?" Those responses, and the ethnic self-designations given, also make it clear that there is no one way of being mixed. There are a couple of folks who don't fit the typical definitions of mixed, or Asian, as we tend to impose them on others. There are folks who talk about mixedness in ways that I disagree with. All this reflects the diversity of a group of people whose common bond is often defined in terms of how they differ from other groups of people.
I also liked that the handful of celebrity portraits were not labelled or specially designated in any way; I honestly couldn't pick out any of the celebrity pictures, although I had a few guesses. No one "looked" famous.
The one thing that bothered me was Paul Spickard's frankly glib dismissal, in the afterword, of the potential controversy around using the word "hapa" to describe non-Hawaiians. It's a complicated issue, and I understand that he didn't have space in the afterword to write an essay about it, but his defense of the term's usage shows a really shallow understanding of what appropriation is. He says:
"I sympathize with resentments some Hawaiians may have at their word being appropriated by Asian Americans. But that is the nature of language. It morphs and moves. It is not anyone's property. Continental Americans might just as well complain about Hawaiians using 'TV' and 'cell phone'."
For someone touted as an expert on race and ethnicity, that is some privilege-laden, Internet bingo card language right there. And the final comparison is just plain bizarre, and offensive in the way it invokes a notion of Hawaiians as technologically primitive compared to "Continental Americans". An unfortunately jarring note on which to end an otherwise pretty good book....more
I felt at sea for much of the first two parts of the book; I really needed an annotated version! To my relief, the third part was much more accessibleI felt at sea for much of the first two parts of the book; I really needed an annotated version! To my relief, the third part was much more accessible to me. Also, while decrying Eurocentrism, Said does one thing which is a huge pet peeve of mine: quoting large chunks in French or German or other "educated" languages untranslated.
Anyway, based on all the references to the book I encountered, I wasn't expecting such a technical academic history. Definitely the most interesting parts to me were the third section, "Orientalism Now", and the foreword/afterword sections reflecting on the book 15 and 25 years later....more
I don't have my copy of the book with me, or I could write a more detailed review. I'll try to write about what I remember. First of all, this book maI don't have my copy of the book with me, or I could write a more detailed review. I'll try to write about what I remember. First of all, this book makes me really happy just by existing. The only reasons it doesn't get five unqualified stars are: 1) the quality of the art is somewhat variable, and 2) it was a little unclear how some of the stories fit (or not) into a larger narrative. While some of the stories stand entirely on their own, others are interconnected, and several of them hint at a larger story that isn't contained within this anthology. The editors provide a chart to explicitly show the connections between characters and stories, but it's a little hard to follow, and I was left with the feeling of a mostly unexplored universe with a lot of potential. What I really hope, of course, is that this universe *will* continue to be explored, and these stories expanded on--online, in another volume, anything! I'm greedy, what can I say--I devoured this book, said, "That was great!" and then immediately said, "I want more!"
Looking at the authors and artists who contributed, it seems like a really wide range of Asian ethnicities is represented. That's great! The stories themselves are less diverse, featuring predominantly Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters, though there are a few SEAsian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern characters represented. I guess it's not surprising that East Asian characters dominate--especially since there's a notable focus on WWII, and therefore on Japanese-American history--but it is kind of interesting when you consider the creators behind them. Just goes to show that racial/ethnic hierarchies exist at all levels, I guess. So that's another thing I'd like to see as this universe grows--a little more diversity in the characters, reflecting the diversity of the creators.
I was super-pleased that there was a chapter, "Girl Power", devoted to female superheroes. Given that all of the primary editors are men, it would have been all too easy for this book to slide into a male-centric fantasy of reclaiming Asian-American masculinity, which it avoided. It's kind of sad how happy a simple thing like not stomping all over women makes me, but there you go.
Stories I particularly enjoyed include: Driving Steel, The Blue Scorpion and Chung, and Learn to Share (which I love especially because it features a classic "victim"--a little girl rescued from sex slavery--but she is a superhero, too).
In sum: I highly recommend this book, and I hope it is the beginning of something huge!...more
I loved this book so much when I read it years ago that I sort of stole it from my teacher's classroom bookshelf. I felt guilty, but I just couldn't bI loved this book so much when I read it years ago that I sort of stole it from my teacher's classroom bookshelf. I felt guilty, but I just couldn't bear to part ways with it. Rereading it recently, it's even more meaningful for me. The connection between Jackie Robinson and a little girl from China seems so obvious and beautiful, especially in the final scene....more