Up Close and Personal with Cartoon Artist Lillian Chan

Up Close and Personal with Cartoon Artist Lillian Chan

Recently, I did a Q&A with JadeLuck Club, Celebrating Asian American Creativity.

1) Tell me about yourself. How old are you? What are you currently doing? Do you live in Boston? In Boston’s Chinatown?
Well, I was born and raised in Boston — primarily Jamaica Plain. Ever since I could remember I loved drawing and playing with words & images together. But, it wasn’t until much later — after graduating from UMass Amherst and working in the web development field — that I decided to actively pursue art. Currently, I’m the design director at Mimoco (www.mimoco.com), best known for the MIMOBOT designer USB flash drives. And during my off days — if I have much time left — I work on my comic Empty Bamboo Girl (www.emptybamboogirl.com)

2) Tell me about your childhood. How much does Ah Lin! reflect your family? Does your family own a Chinese restaurant, for example?
I grew up in a pretty typical Chinese immigrant family household. My dad worked as a cook in a Chinese restaurant out in the suburbs (and which he still does to this very day) and my mother started off as a seamstress back when the Leather District in Chinatown was bustling with fabric manufacturing. They worked hard so that my brother and I could have opportunities that they never had.

3) How did you get into cartooning? How did your parents feel about it?
I didn’t seriously get into it until I started working at the Sampan Newspaper, a small local newspaper in English and Chinese based out of Boston. I was writing for them at the time — putting my journalism degree to good use. But then the editor at the time and I started talking and he suggested putting together a comic for the newspaper. I liked drawing (he knew it) + writing so I thought I’d take a stab at it. I’ve been working on the comic ever since.

But as far as I can remember I’ve always been doodling.

4) What career did your parents want you to pursue? What did you decide to pursue?
Of course, my parents wanted me to study something that would give me a financially secure future — so something in the science or medical or accounting fields. My older brother studied biology and went into the biotech industry. But, I wasn’t science-minded whatsoever. So, while at UMass Amherst, I studied journalism since that was the only major that interested me. Studying art seemed to be out of the question. My parents weren’t enthusiastic about it and I didn’t have enough in me at the time to go for it.
So, I graduated and got a job at a publishing house doing something I was slightly interested in. It wasn’t until a few years later that I decided it was time to pursue art. I wasn’t happy so I applied to MassArt and was floored when I got accepted. My parents weren’t too happy, but by then I was old enough and determined enough.

5) Would you describe your mother as a “Tiger Mom?” And if yes, how so?
My mom is an old school “Tiger Mom.” No sleepovers (although my friends could come over). There were violin lessons but that came out of my own initial interest during grade school where our music classes were subsidized. She and many mothers of her generation had to be “Tiger Mothers.” Coming from poor circumstances with little education and immigrating to a country they knew nothing about meant that they had to make sure their children would have a better future than they did. I don’t think it’s simply about going to Harvard for the name (well, maybe), but moreso I don’t want you to have to struggle working in a restaurant 10+ hours a day or sewing non-stop.  But, it can become intense — the amount of pressure that’s placed to succeed. As a kid, you don’t understand…and for some, they’re able to understand as they get older while others can’t step back from it and it can get to them.
I’ve chosen to step back and find the humor — if possible.

6) What’s next for you? What do you hope to accomplish with your cartoon strip?
What’s next for the comic strip is developing it into a graphic novel. So, I’m going back to old comic pieces I’ve done and writing to make that happen — hopefully it’ll be finished by the end of the year.

7) Is there significance for your comic strip title, Empty Bamboo Girl? What do you intend for it to convey?
The term “empty bamboo” or “hollow bamboo” is a cantonese term (jook sing) for American Born Chinese folk — it’s a bit derogatory because it means that you look Chinese on the outside but you don’t possess anything authentically Chinese on the inside…you’re hollow like a bamboo. But, for me, I want to take back that term and embrace it. So, what if I am? Does that make me any less Chinese? No. I’m Chinese American…Asian American…and this is my experience.
I just hope that there are those who can identify with the comic strip and not feel alone in their situation — to find the humor in it all. Or, maybe I just need to find some company in my misery

Read the Q&A here. Much thanks to Mia who runs the site!

Shouted Out!

Shouted Out!

I found Lillian Chan on Twitter. She claims that no one knows about her cartoon, Ah-Lin!, but I hope to change that! I hope she doesn’t mind that I am posting her cartoon on an imaginary encounter with her parents on Facebook. For more of her cartoons, click here. She turns her upbringing by a Tiger Mom into a cute, appealing, and funny cartoon strip. Check her out!

Thanks JadeLuckClub, Celebrating Asian American Creativity!

Why Chinese Mothers are Superior

Why Chinese Mothers are Superior

So this article in the Wall Street Journal has been making the rounds on the innanet lately. There’s been a bit of controversy regarding Amy Chua’s parenting techniques.

Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me “garbage” in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn’t actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.

As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests.

Some are really upset, but I myself find it hilarious. Hey, if she wants to impart some craziness to her children then that’s her thing. Also, calling your kid garbage in English vs Chinese loses its effect — it’s more harsh in Chinese (I think).

The only thing I take offense to is the title of the piece. Chinese mothers are superior? Ummm…they’re more like bat-shiyat crazy…like ALL mothers.

I could address it in my comic, but I have my own crazy mother character to portray.

🙂

[found via Angry Asian Man]

Angry Reader of the Week

Angry Reader of the Week

Forgot to post this, but I was also Angry Reader of the Week for 1/15/2010 🙂

Gather ’round, good people. It’s time to meet another Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I’ve been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week’s Angry Reader is “doodler & dreamer extraordinaire” Lillian Chan.

Who are you?

A doodler & dreamer extraordinaire; indie comic artist — so indie that no one knows about me 😛

What are you?

I’m the daughter of Chinese immigrants, who taught me how to dream — even though they didn’t mean to.

Where are you?
Boston, where it is cold like a mutha…

Where are you from?
Born & raised in Boston, MA.

To read the full Q&A, go to AngryAsianMan!

ASPIRE Conference

ASPIRE Conference

Guess where I’ll be this Saturday afternoon?

I’ll be speaking on a panel called “Fearless” For ASPIRE (Asian Sisters Participating in Reaching Excellence).

Me? Fearless? There is no bravery involved whatsoever when it comes to the things I do be it with art, lion + dragon dancing, or my 30 blind dates project (which ended up being 4 because #4 ended up being the one).

I don’t think about the consequences or rationalize why I should do something versus not do it. Am I scared of failing? Humiliating myself? Hey, those are a given. I just do it and deal with whatever may come my way.

Seriously, what’s the use in worrying? Life doesn’t last forever so I might as well make the best of what time I have…for the most part. I mean, I do have moments of absolute couch-potato-ness, don’t get me wrong.

🙂

So if you’re interested in going, there’s still time to get tickets here.

Solanin by Inio Asano

Solanin by Inio Asano

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Just finished reading this manga and I loved it.

The art was just perfect and the story was quiet and yet utterly amazing. The only word I can use to describe the story and art is sensitive. Sometimes the art from other comic books throw me off from however fabulous the story may be, but here the softness and detail served as the perfect complement — along the lines of Adrian Tomine.

I also have to admit that what drew me to picking up the manga from the comic book shop was the fact that it wasn’t the usual manga where it goes on and on for 30+ books. That annoys me to no end.

Solanin is just this one book with this one lovely story that begins and finishes.

Afterword

I drew Solanin when I was about 24 years old. I had just graduated from college and I was feeling a bit insecure about my ability to succeed as a manga artist and whether I would be able to continue to draw manga that were true to myself. In my anxiety and impatience, I felt that all I could do in my mnaga was try to get a true depiction of the times as experienced by my generation.

Lovers, friends, money, jobs, a society with an unclear future, ones own pride…Writhing in these multiple, entangling factors, perhaps they are unable to draw any conclusions. Perhaps this instant now is just a small part of their futile daily lives. The only thing that’s certain is that they can never return to the days gone by.

There’s nothing cool about these characters. They’re just your avergae 20-somethings who blend into the backdrop of the city. But the most important messages in our lives don’t come from musicians on stage or stars on television. They come from the average people all around you, the ones who are just feet from where you stand. That’s what I believe.

~ Inio Asano, 2008