Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale

by Lisa Kirchner

Paralyzed with fear after an abusive relationship and nearly 30 with no accomplishments, artist Belle Yang feels like a failure. She moves back home to practice calligraphy and recoup, but she finds it hard to identify with her immigrant parents’ traditional ways.

Her father is prone to a bad temper and blames his daughter for the way her life has turned out; likewise, Yang feels suffocated by her fathers high expectations. Seeking a distraction, she begins to ask questions about her fathers family in Manchuria, and soon finds herself writing and illustrating his stories. Yang’s fathers tale begins with his father and his fathers three brothers, four men born into a prosperous family whose closeness becomes threatened by war, famine, and Communist oppression during World War II. Despite its heavy premise, Forget Sorrow begins at an awkward pace; the set-up–Yang’s return to her parent’s house–occurs too rapidly to sufficiently set the stage for the entire book. Although the story returns frequently to scenes with Yang and her father, Yang reveals little about her relationship with her ex-boyfriend (referred to simply as Rotten Egg), and Yang and her parents are never fully fleshed out, making them hard to relate to. Despite these unsatisfactory segments, the ancestral-tale portion of the book develops into a fascinating read in the vein of the popular comic Persepolis. Charmingly illustrated with black-and-white ink drawings, this graphic memoir explores a tumultuous time in China’s recent history.

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