- May 31 - King Library Opens at 1:00 PM
For July 2012, our Online Book Club continues by discussing Forget Sorrow by Belle Yang. Each week, we'll put forth a different question to prompt reflection on the book and its themes. We hope you will participate in the discussion, or communicate questions you might have of Forget Sorrow directly to author/illustrator Belle Yang.
Week 3: How does Belle provide humor in her artwork in contrast to the pathos of her tale?
In this graphic novel, Belle Yang applies the techniques of Chinese brush painting (ink) to the comics format in a bold, yet tender manner. Her artwork blends the various aspects of humanity and nature intimately – in either idyllic or apocalyptic scenes.
There are ample frames of sweeping landscape of rolling hills, meandering paths, brooks, meadows, lush garden, farm, or desolate sand dunes. Within these settings, intimate personal strife, family drama, and historical events unfold in the changes of season and generational cycles. The surrounding willows, maples, plum blossoms, pines, wild flowers, and dandelions (only in California) all seem to be characters accompanying her protagonists through their journeys. There are quiet strength and strong conviction, intimated by her identification with nature, in the face of her struggle against violence and quest for freedom. When birdies, dragon flies or butterflies flutter about, the reader can’t help but smile with the artist, out of joy.
Then, there is the sheltering sky with movements of sunrise, sunset, moon phases, comets, constellations, clouds—cirrus, cumulus, stratus,- storms and lightening. The cosmic signs seem to reveal universal significance to the wise and eternal guidance to the prudent. However the weather elements, metaphors for greed and desires, beat down on mere humans. At the same time, being blind to reality is no way to escape misfortune. It is suggested, by her images of the bearded man in meditation under a tree in war time, that averting your eyes from responsibility is no path to enlightenment. The sadness retained in this pictorial parable is counterbalanced in kind by the wit and humor of Second Uncle's poems and allusions (like the big bull in brocade that is to be sacrificed) conveyed through the vivid, imaginative illustrations by the artist.
Amidst the human drama of the Yang clan, the constant presence of an array of small creatures provides some relief from the tension of the family conflicts and serves as a device to form a more detached and balanced perspective. The touching portraiture of the farm animals, pets, mice, weasels, rabbits, deer, crows, swallows all hints at the larger order of the natural world and other possibilities of life conduct. The companion of family cat (one each in the patriarch’s and Baba’s households) is sketched as precious and endearing, especially in the sense that they are innocent, wide-open-eyed, and nonjudgmental. It’s an irony that the beloved cats possess a measure of equanimity that neither the patriarch nor Baba’s father did, despite their lifetime practice of meditation. For that matter, the Taoist beggar and Second Uncle appear to be more spiritually accomplished; and the artist’s sympathetic delineation of their philosophical outlooks and eccentric behaviors inspires musing and sparks humor.
For the ending, Xuan (Belle) emerges confident, somersaulting on the gentle sandy beach on the ocean that reaches in the opposite direction to the old country where Granddaddy Hill used to be, but is now cleared and scattered. Belle’s quest for freedom has come full circle to her parents' home in California. Do you respond to her artistic representation in any particular way?