Complex as ABC
Back in the early 1990s, when I lived in France, I used Tin Tin, Asterix and Obelix and Lucky Luke comics to help my family learn French. The French, like the Japanese, have a long-standing tradition of using the graphic form for story-telling.
On my return to Australia, I took to hanging out in Minotaur and Classic Comics in Bourke Street. It’s amazing to track how far graphic novels have come in the last ten years. My kids, in particular, are big consumers of graphic novels and at one stage even had their own ‘graphic novel and comics’ book club but I think, until recently, reading graphic novels has been an acquired taste.
Books like American Born Chinese are set to change all that. It’s won a slew of awards in the US and with good reason. It’s a beautiful story, not simply about growing up as the child of Chinese immigrants but about being yourself and staying true to your beliefs. Some conventional readers, particularly adults, have complained to me that reading graphic novels simply doesn’t ‘work’ for them, that the stories are too complex and the imagery too bamboozling. American Born Chinese is the sort of perfect book that could convert any reader to the graphic novel.