THIS JOURNAL DOCUMENTS MY INTAKE OF ONE BOOK, ZINE, CD OR DVD A DAY. RATINGS ARE: ***** = Godhead, **** = Great, *** = Good, ** = Fair, * = Why Bother?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Shortcomings (****)

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
Drawn and Quarterly, 2007, 104 pages

Shortcomings collects issues 9 through 11 of Adrian Tomine's comic series Optic Nerve into one thematic book focused on Asian-Americans, assimilation and cross-cultural relationships. Ben Tanaka and his girlfriend Miko are Japanese-Americans, but Ben has developed a thing for blond white girls. It causes problems in their relationship and Miko soon moves to New York for a job. Though he dallies with a pretentious blond white girl artist, Ben is later incensed when he discovers Miko is dating a gajin white boy - who speaks fluent Japanese! Ben's gal pal Alice Kim is a totally assimilated Korean-American lesbian who adds additional perspectives on sexual and cultural identity.

I liked that this offered a look at what it's like to be "Us Vs. Them" (to quote the great LCD Soundsystem song) - characters seeing themselves not just the other in terms of being Asians in a White Society, but also being one type of Asian versus another (e.g., Alice Kim's attempts to appease her parents' sexual and cultural biases by introducing Ben as both her boyfriend and a Korean BF to boot). Fascinating subject matter and, as always, beautiful drawings by the talented Tomine, a Japanese-American well familiar with issues of cultural identity and assimilation.

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