Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Arrival and my father

David and I read Shaun Tan's The Arrival today. It's a beautiful graphic novel that will resonate with anyone, but especially those of us who are immigrants. It is the beautiful, strange, and wordless tale of a man leaving his family behind and traveling to a foreign land in hopes of a brighter future.

The book would make a perfect gift for my father who immigrated to this country in the 1980's leaving behind his family---my mother and me. Living on a student's stipend and trying to save up money to mail home, my father would eat cabbage and onions for weeks on end. He tells one story of slipping and falling down on ice, again and again on one of the many steep and hilly roads in West Virginia trying to get somewhere on foot, when people with cars had even chosen to stay in. The story meant to be a funny anecdote always breaks my heart.

It would be the perfect gift, yet I fear to give it to him. For it's strangeness and whimsical, wordless qualities---something that I have cultivated a taste for---may be something incomprehensible to him. He may laugh at the novelty, shake his head at what he perceives to be a book for children. He hasn't had the time in his life to cultivate such tastes. So much of his time has been spent on providing for us, making sure we have a good future, and that I have the creature comforts that was denied him when he was young. Perhaps I give him too little credit.

I'm grateful for this book; for it's beauty and elegance, and because it reminds me of what my father did for me.
Here's an excellent interview with Shaun Tan on the book.


steph said...

hey cindy!

the book does look beautiful, and I loved the background story about your dad. It's true what you say about our parents not having the luxury to indulge in books for pleasure the way we did. Anyway, I love that you've started your blog again! =)

CChen said...

Aww Steph, thank you! I'm going to pick it up a little more once everything starts to be a little more routine in my life =).

Btw book recommendation: Rules of Enchantment by Heidi Julavitis. I put off reading this for a long time, because it had gotten lukewarm reviews. Well it proves that I should never listen to mob opinion, because I think it's a wonderful book. Especially if sometimes you felt trapped/insignificant/desperate as a teenager. I didn't necessarily identify with the main character, but I can see where she comes from, and th emotional trauma that parents can bring to a child's life. Read it when you have time =) I miss you, let me know when you come up to NYC, or maybe I'll try to visit you after your boards if you are going to be in WV after that.