There’s not a moment to lose. I’m getting fired up and ready to go sell some books. Hey there, friends, consider getting a copy of Max in America: Into the Land of Trump, available at Amazon or ask me directly or go to my blog’s store. I’d love to know what you think and don’t be shy about reviewing it at Amazon too! But don’t just take my word for it. Check out what author Stacey E. Bryan has to say over at her blog…
Tag Archives: Immigration
Interview: Anya Ulinich and The Nation’s Open Letter Regarding the US/Mexico Border Detention Centers
Yesterday, The Nation magazine released an open letter to the US Congress speaking out against inhumane conditions at the US/Mexico border. You can read that post right here. I decided to put on my reporter’s hat and address this news story promptly. I was looking over the list of the over 40 prominent authors who cosigned and I noticed the one graphic novelist on the list, Anya Ulinich. Of course, my eyes rested on each and every participant given such an impressive list. But I concluded that I was unable to resist getting a few words from Anya Ulinich. As I said to her beforehand, I wasn’t expecting too many words, just whatever might come to her mind. When I asked her what it meant to her to be an immigrant, she said it simply meant that she went from living in one place to living in another place. And, yes, it should be as simple as that.
Ulinich went on to say that, “as a parent of two children, I know that every day that a child is put through fear and discomfort is traumatic. I can’t understand a person who would think that these conditions are acceptable for whatever bureaucratic reason.” As for hopes for the future, Ulinich hopes that The Nation’s Open Letter reaches Congress and that Donald Trump is not re-elected in 2020.
To hear the interview, just click the audio link below:
If you missed it today, Trump made an announcement that is a rehash of immigration policy which will secure a continuance of the Trump Shutdown.
The biggest fear for many, apart from death, is a fear of rejection! Well, I say, Fugetaboutit! In fact, if you’re in New York City, I encourage you to consider doing what I did: go up and do an open mic at a comedy club! Yes, that is what I did as part of an Airbnb experience, “Learn Stand-up with a Comedian,” hosted by Rishi and John, both NYC-based comedians there to show you around the NYC comedy scene. You can certainly just observe but I felt I was ready to jump in and go on stage.
New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world–and that definitely includes comedy. Within the closely knit area of Greenwich Village, are a number of comedy clubs all with their own energy and history. And, at the epicenter is the Comedy Cellar where on any given night you might get to see such legends as Amy Schumer and Jerry Seinfeld. With the help of my mentor for the evening, comedian John Kim, I got quite an immersive experience. I learned a lot and was fueled with plenty of inspiration which made going up on stage for open mic all the easier. And what a stage! I couldn’t have asked for a better venue for a first-timer, The Lantern Comedy Club!
The great challenge is in confronting any doubts: Is the material good enough? Am I good enough? Yes, trust me, you’re more than worthy to go up on stage and just give it a try. More than likely, or let’s say it’s just about a guarantee, any misgivings will melt away once you start. Something will trigger in your brain: Go! Okay, here’s the next hook! Stop, try to pause. Go! Add this. Don’t say that just yet..okay, say it now.
As in anything, you get what you bring to something. I’ve been working on a particular character and his story arc for quite some time. I decided to put together a comedy bit and featured Maximo Viaje, a guy form Mexico City who has somehow stumbled upon a journey of self-discovery in the U.S. even though he entered the country illegally. For Max, that’s just a small problem in a much bigger picture. Okay, so this is a fictional character that I’m bringing to life on stage. Now, for all you fellow writers, tell me: Wouldn’t this be a very useful exercise for you? Check it out:
You get into a frame a mind and, yes, your mind is a beautiful thing and it’s in it to win it. Thanks to my beautiful mind and to such an insightful and inspirational guidance from John Kim, I did more than just get through my set. I really learned and grew from the experience. And, just like hitting the gym, you know when you’re in the zone and you know you want to get back to it again and again.
The plight of the immigrant has never been easy and, currently, their fate could not be more dangerous. Many, fighting to leave threatening circumstances, stand no chance of finding the freedom they seek. This brings me to another unique work in comics that defies our expectations of the more traditional graphic novel format. The artwork here is not exactly in panels and there are no word balloons for the characters to speak from. Alpha: Abidjan to Paris is published by Bellevue Literary Press and written by Bessora, illustrated by Barroux, and translated from the French by Sarah Abizzone. Alpha, our main character, while symbolic of all immigrants struggling against the odds, readily engages the reader with his own set of specifics. In this way, the creative team truly gives a face to a problem demanding our attention.
It was never an easy dream to fulfill but our hero, Alpha, finds he has no choice. Like so many others before him, Alpha is compelled to flee his homeland in search of a better life. In his particular case, he is leaving his home in Côte d’Ivoire to reunite with his wife and son who fled ahead of him and are supposed to be living in Paris with his sister-in-law. Alpha joins a vast number of Africans from varied regions united in plans to outwit ever-tighter border security, and find the right port of exit along the northern coast.
There are a number of detours that Alpha must take on his journey. Each side trip suggests the end of the road. But Alpha is quite persistent and his hopes never dampen even when he ends up in the role of the much despised human smuggler. At least, he fully appreciates that he is part of an necessary evil. That said, whenever he confronts a dilemma in his work, he can’t help but side with the migrant. He simply lacks that killer instinct to make that maximum or, in some cases, only profit. Many of his clients have been accepted on credit that he is unlikely to ever collect on.
Thanks to Barroux’s highly emotive artwork, the reader is quickly hooked in to what reads as a series of diary entries. The frenetic quality of the art is matched by the conversational tone in Bessora’s writing. Adding another layer is Sarah Ardizzone’s translation from the French which further unites the sensibilities of illustrator and writer. All in all, the results, with their raw sense of urgency, are quite captivating. Alpha has gone on to become an international award–winning graphic novel supported by Amnesty International and Le Korsa, a nonprofit organization devoted to improving human lives in Senegal.
A migrant once stood a much better chance of crossing a border to safer ground but not now. Once, a migrant could have a reasonable chance at mercy but not now. The fate of the immigrant is in crisis across the globe, including in the United States of America. Books like Alpha help to educate the public and help to build toward a safer and more merciful world.
Alpha: Abidjan to Paris is a 128-page, full color, hardcover now available. For more details, and how to purchase, visit Bellevue Literary Press.
THE BEST WE COULD DO, by Thi Bui and published by Abrams ComicArts, is one of those rare graphic novels with an in depth family theme. This sort of book belongs in the select group of titles like PERSEPOLIS and FUN HOME. In fact, you usually need to turn to the superhero genre, with all its universes and lineages, to find a story in comics that focuses on anything remotely to do with family. I say this tongue-in-cheek but it’s fairly true. Anyway, anytime you add family, you are likely adding something interesting to your story. What happens in Bui’s graphic novel is thoughtful, funny, and totally interesting. When was the last time you read an epic saga about a Vietnamese family? Well, this fills that void in a very compelling way.
Thi Bui studied art and law, thought about becoming a civil rights lawyer, but became a public school teacher instead. Someone with that kind of background is just the sort of cerebral and sensitive type of person who gravitates to creating comics. Bui was born in Vietnam and arrived in America with her family as a refugee from the Vietnam War. Her immigrant experience, without a doubt, is part of a continuum that will outlive our current political machinations. This is a story that goes beyond that and addresses the struggles that any family will confront as one generation must come to terms with another. It is also a story about finding one’s self both within and outside the context of family. As Bui discovers, close proximity to family does not necessary mean close ties to family.
Overall, Bui has adopted a solid alt-comics approach to her work. It has that intimacy and spontaneity that evokes work coming out of a sketchbook. While Bui is not a career cartoonist who has honed years of experimentation with comics, she provides an engaging and polished style. It will be interesting to see if she chooses to further develop her work in the comics medium. She has created a beautiful book.
Eroyn Franklin’s special accordion-style comic book, “DETAINED,” calls attention to a serious problem in the United States and world-wide: countless people who fall between the cracks of a faulty legal system and end up being detained, sometimes by mistake, and often for indefinite periods of time. These stories pop up in the news now and then. You might see them as that news item on your screen you bookmark for later or meant to read but never got around to it. Well, you really should.
Consider all of us human beings on planet Earth, and all the countries and governments and conflicts and wars and violence, and the outright need for people to leave one hostile place for another, hopefully safer, place. And then you need to think of what may happen to a lot of these people seeking asylum, a better life, only to be scooped up by a corporate net and held captive with little to no regard for their well-being. Just check out this recent article from The New York Times if you think detention centers are rare and far between. On the contrary, it’s a boom market for the companies who profit from them. The United States, along with other countries, do not run or closely monitor their own detention centers.
What Franklin does with her book is give you a taste of what it’s like to be a typical detainee. There are so many different stories to tell, some gruesome and heart-breaking. These two that Franklin presents are not overtly dramatic and yet even these more understated portraits give you a glimpse into the rampant violence, neglect and utter incompetence that goes hand in hand with all of these detention centers. In this case, it is Seattle’s former INS building and the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. What Franklin’s portraits do is paint a picture of what is most likely to happen. At the very least, if you are a detainee, there’s a good chance you shouldn’t even be a detainee, your stay will be indefinite, your stay will be at least as bad as any prison, and there is a contractor profiting from your stay with no motivation to see you leave.
The book focuses on two detainees: Many is a Cambodian refugee who had a few run-ins with the law as a kid but who shouldn’t have ended up in a detention center; and Gaby, a Mexican, who simply got rounded up and must do some time at a detention center. The more you read about detainees, the more you wonder who exactly needs to be in a detention center. Given the fact that these centers are run for a profit, the overriding need to house people to make money is the only thing that makes sense. It is good politics and good business to crack down on immigration so people like Many and Gaby must be punished. Some detainees can’t bear the stress of the abusive conditions and not knowing when, if ever, they might be released and so they kill themselves. Franklin refers to that as well as the fact that these centers are so understaffed that the inmates must work, basically as slaves. The beauty of Franklin’s work is in its understatement. You be the judge, she seems to be saying.
This is a compelling story told in a compelling way. The continuous panorama that follows these two immigrants is quite mesmerizing. You literally loose yourself in the comics as you get a sense of day to day existence in these centers. It’s no surprise that comics journalism can be quite effective in telling a story and this is a great example of it. The book spreads out to 26 feet of folded up panles, each story on one side, a total of 78 color pages. This also includes, incredibly, two full-sized posters! You can pick up your copy by contacting the artist. You can also just visit Eroyn Franklin at her site. And, if you happen to be in Seattle, you must go see her at an amazing small press expo called, “Short Run,” at the Vera Project at Seattle Center, on Saturday, November 12. Admission is free. You must go! And check out CLP, the Common Language Project that compliments this book at clpmag.org. You can also learn more at American Civl Liberties Union, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Detention Watch Network, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and One America.