The Shadow Hero
by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Sonny Liew
2014 • 176 pages • First Second
On Monday, The Mary Sue republished Lilian-Ann Bonaparte’s Black Girl Nerds essay on the importance of racebent fanart, “For Black Girls who considered Esmerelda Black when Cinderella wasn’t enuf: The Importance of Race-Bending Fan-Art.” It is well worth a read—Bonaparte specifically fixes on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the greatest of the Disney Renaissance films—but Bonaparte makes herself very, very clear at the end of it: “Race-bending is radical, progressive and imperative for the WOC who are starved for more positive representation in media.”
Gene Luen Yang, I think, would undoubtedly agree with Bonaparte. Given his measured but angry response to the atrociously whitewashed Avatar: The Last Airbender film (could have had it all, rolling in the deep, etc.), it’s very tempting and, I think, rewarding to think of The Shadow Hero as Yang’s opportunity to avenge the scores of Asian characters who have been whitewashed over the years for the sake of appealing to a “wider” (which is a very odd way to spell “whiter”) audience.
by Lucy Knisley
2013 • 192 pages • First Second
Despite my love of cooking, I don’t review cookbooks for this blog. There are a lot of reasons for that. Firstly, I don’t actually read that many of them, because the Internet is my main resource for recipes. Secondly, I don’t actually read them the way I consume media. I rifle through them, searching for something I like, and when I finally do alight on a likely candidate, my improvisation is brutal because of my lactose intolerance, laziness, and cheapness. When I look for a recipe for myself, it’s with the specific intent of making it my own.
But when I read food histories or food-centered memoirs, it’s a different story. I’m seized by the urge to recreate a historical dish, to better access the past through my sense of taste, or by the need to go find the pizzeria this book recommends and see if it’s really worth all the praise. Relish’s recipes and recommendations proved all the more tempting for author Lucy Knisley’s clear, clean, and bright artwork. I have bookmarked places to go eat in Chicago because of this book, and I have never been to Chicago nor plan to visit Chicago. I have an ear of corn in my fridge from the farmer’s market, ready for me to eat raw, per Knisley’s fond memories of doing so. I even copied her recipe for sautéed mushrooms down to the letter, but my stomach was being peculiarly tender and refused to digest it.
Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel
The Macmillian imprint First Second has a unique approach to promoting the graphic novels it publishes—you can often read them online before they’re published. They did this with Americus (which I should really pick up from the library for a reread and proper review) and they did it with Sailor Twain, a graphic novel written by the imprint’s editorial director. In the former’s case, I read it avidly—in the latter, I avoided it like the plague. I mean, otherwise, it’s right up my alley: I adore period speculative fiction. But knowing I could read it before its publication made me, perversely, want to wait for the book to come out. The marketing strategy either failed or worked spectacularly. Tricksy marketing people!
Friends With Boys by Erin Faith Hicks
I’m going to miss the public library next to my school. As I start filing applications for grad school and publishing programs (Lord preserve me), I’m starting to become very aware of the spaces and places I’m going to have to leave behind, whether my wildest dreams come true or no. I’ve gotten used to their layout, to taking a quick spin around the first floor, where all the fiction is spread out by audience age. And that’s how I ended up taking Friends With Boys home; a quick spin, deciding I liked the art, and off I went.
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Anya’s Ghost is pretty much Nymeth’s fault. The art style and story interested me when I read her review, and I was delighted to discover that the public library next to my college had a copy. (They’ve actually got quite a good collection of comics and graphic novels, and they’re shelved next to young adult fiction, rather than in the bowels of the Dewey Decimal system, like my public library at home. They also don’t shelve according to genre, which I love. Score one for public library next to my college.) I rented it along with X-Men: Magneto Testament before realizing I hadn’t fulfilled my vow of reading Understanding Comics before reading any more comics, so I kept it for a while… but I eventually got it around to reading it.