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Review: Vietnamese Memories Vol. 2: Little Saigon

Vietnamese Memories Vol. 2: Little Saigon

As 2018 ends, it’s a year where hate in all of its disgusting forms was very prevalent in the news and in every community. World leaders became more vocal about their own biases, it became apparent to all, that tolerance had increasingly became a rare belief.

“Love for your fellow man” and “content of your character” are sentiments that feel like relics in this new world. Instead of defying abhorrence it was welcomed. We find heads of state making excuses for hate mongers and having difficulty with saying their associated actions are deplorable.

This new world that all of us has gotten used to makes it a very scary place for immigrants and especially refugees. Life of the refugee in their intended new world is no longer certain. This is what makes immigrant communities like the multitude of Chinatowns in various cities, Little Italy in New York, Little Manila in New Jersey, and Little Haiti, in Miami, FL, so essential to the endurance of the culture from their home countries. That culture helps form the identity of these new neighborhoods. I personally never grew up in one of these communities but I’ve been to enough of them to know how important it is to those who live there and especially the ones born here. In the second and final volume of Vietnamese Memories: Little Saigon we continue to follow Vietnamese immigrants as they fathom a new reality and try not to lose who they are.

In the first story we meet Xuan, a restaurant owner in Brooklyn, New York, who shares his affinity for Pho and just how it has shaped his love for cooking. We are then taken to San Francisco  where we are taken to the Laos area of this major metropolis where most of the people who settled there helped the US military during the Vietnam War. They came over to make better life for themselves  but their communities became infested with drugs and the gangs made up of their children and grandchildren who are completely cut off from their parents culture . We’re then taken to San Jose where their “Little Saigon” is actually a large thriving community. We meet Ahn, an older beautiful woman, who realized way too young that beauty was a curse as her path was not without the heartbreak of betrayal, living in two refugee camps, testing of friendships and ultimately arriving in San Francisco, where she weaponizes what she first saw as a curse into a tool to seize her dreams. We also go to Los Angeles, which has a big Asian population and one of the most world renowned “Little Saigon” neighborhoods in existence lying in the middle of Orange County. It’s one where most of the community came from South Vietnam and where we meet Yen, a woman, who was once a national athlete for a post-Vietnam War Vietnam but becomes imprisoned over several different instances. First for trying to flee the country but eventually for escaping prison, where she becomes pregnant with an American expat but is forced to raise her daughter on her own. As her daughter becomes a teenager she eventually decides to move to America to be with her sister and make a better life for her and her daughter. We are also taken to Charleston, South Carolina, where many Vietnamese settled because the terrain reminded many of them of the Vietnamese countryside. There we meet Tam and Nicole, a couple who escaped Vietnam because of the gang violence, the country’s instability, and the growing tensions.

Overall, the graphic novel is a classic tome of the perseverance of the human spirit, as one doesn’t know what one can endure, until one undergoes the fire. The stories by Clement Baloup are heartbreaking, profound, and immense in scope. The art by Baloup is effortlessly beautiful. Altogether, it’s an essential addition to any collection but especially to those of us who know of the struggles our family had to undertake to make a better life for us.

Story: Clement Baloup Art: Clement Baloup
Translation: Ceri Pollard, Hannah Flixter, Alessandra Cazes,
and Olivia Hanks
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Humanoids’ Life Drawn Gets a Second Wave of Graphic Novels

In advance of San Diego Comic Comic International 2018, Humanoids is announcing a second wave of graphic novels for Life Drawn, its new literary imprint. Life Drawn spotlights personal stories and provocative, political narratives. The upcoming titles run the gamut, including: a biography of feminist icon and actress Hedy Lamarr, focusing on her revolutionizing scientific and technological innovations; a runner’s memoir of the New York Marathon; a hallucinatory and horror-fueled telling of Marilyn Monroe’s life and a humorous exploration of religious identity (and Krypton).

Marilyn’s Monsters by Tommy Redolfi

Publication date: September 4, 2018; ISBN: 978-1594655357; 248 Pages; $29.95

The famous Hollywood Hills. A strange, twisted forest filled with freaks and broken-down trailers. In this dark world, movie stars are born in the shadows. Determined to become the greatest one of all, shy Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe) comes to this ghost-town with hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, she’ll have to face all kinds of monsters to reach her ultimate goal. . . . This is Marilyn Monroe’s dark journey like you’ve never seen it before.

Kabul Disco Book 2: How I Managed Not To Get Addicted to Opium in Afghanistan by Nicolas Wild

Publication date: September 18, 2018; ISBN: 978-1594654695; 176 Pages; $19.95

In this second volume of his travelogue series, Nicolas Wild returns to Afghanistan, unfulfilled by his old life in Paris, to resume work at the Zendagui agency. This time around, however, his job is even trickier than illustrating the Constitution (see Book 1): he has to convince Afghans that “Opium is Bad” in a time when no one wants to hear what expatriates have to say. With a charming sense of humor and a genuine love for Afghanistan, Nicolas Wild depicts a series of complicated events, transpiring in a complicated country.

Superman Isn’t Jewish (But I Am . . . Kinda) by Jimmy Bemon (writer) and Emilie Boudet (artist)

Publication date: October 2, 2018; ISBN: 978-1594655982; 112 Pages; $14.95

Adapted into an eponymous short film by Jimmy Bemon.

An intimate and humorous autobiography of a boy’s quest for identity as he struggles with his heritage and his heroes. Benjamin would always proudly say, “I’m Jewish. Like Superman!” Assuming that Judaism is some kind of super power and Hebrew is akin to the Kryptonian language, Benjamin believes each of his family members is a superhero. Until, like Krypton, his world is shattered. After learning of the link between being circumcised and his religion, Ben decides to hide his heritage from everyone. Caught between the desire to avoid disappointing his Jewish father and his desire to understand his Catholic mother, Ben has to find a way to abandon his secret identity for a very public one. Humorous, timeless and universal, this personal and poignant story of acceptance and understanding shows how we all must learn to love the hero within ourselves.

My New York Marathon by Sebastien Samson

Publication date: October 30, 2018; ISBN: 978-1594657542; 192 Pages; $19.95

Published timed to the annual New York Marathon, this inspiring love-letter to the event and to the city that hosts it has already been championed by running heavyweights Jeff Galloway and Amby Burfoot, and endorsed by both the New York Road Runners club and the New York Marathon itself.

A quiet, aging teacher decides to run the New York Marathon. Along the way, he transforms into the man he always wanted to be. Sebastian, a quiet and shy teacher, decides, on a whim, to challenge his aging body and crumbling spirit and run the New York Marathon. From the streets of France to the streets of Brooklyn, Sebastian pushes himself past limits he didn’t even know he had. A humorous and poignant autobiographical tale and a love letter to the landscapes and panoramas of New York as well as a testament to the triumph of the human spirit.

Hedy Lamarr: An Incredible Life by William Roy (Writer) and Sylvain Dorange (Art)

Publication date: November 6, 2018; ISBN: 978-1594656194; 176 Pages; $19.95

To her fans, Hedy Lamarr was a silver screen star; to those who knew her, she was a genius. She fashioned designs to revolutionize the planes built by Howard Hughes. In the dead of night, she tinkered with her blueprints and experiments. And when World War II began, Hedy left her superstar persona behind and claimed the patent for a strange device. One that manipulated sound, created an unbreakable code and confounded the Nazi regime, giving the allies the advantage they needed to claim victory. Scientists called it “Spread Spectrum” technology. The military called it a “secret communication system.” Today, we call it a “cell phone,” “Wi-Fi” and a little thing called “Internet.” This is the story of a genius. A visionary. And the most beautiful woman in the world.

Vietnamese Memories Book 2: Little Saigon by Clement Baloup

Publication date: November 13, 2018; ISBN: 978-1594657993; 256 Pages; $24.95

Winner of the Coup de coeur prix Michelin 2012 – Rendez-vous du Carnet de voyage

The second in a three book series exploring the stories of displaced Viet Kieu around the world, Vietnamese Memories: Little Saigon immerses us in the diaspora of the United States and the assimilation of these Vietnamese immigrant communities, labeled Little Saigons. Through trips made in 2009 and 2010, Baloup shows how the memory and culture were maintained in these Asian neighborhoods in the heart of the big American cities (Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Lao Area, etc.).