Wednesday, December 9, 2020

31 Days Of CCS, #9: Iris Yan

Iris Yan is one of my favorite CCS grads. Her dry sense of humor, minimalist but highly expressive line, and use of anthropomorphic animals for her autobiographical stories have long been a source of continuous delight. There's a matter-of-factness to the blunt way she evaluates the world that renders her an outsider no matter where she goes--and she's just fine with that. She's of Chinese heritage, grew up in Brazil, went to school in Vermont, worked in Madagascar, and now lives in Taiwan. No matter where she lives, she has a keen sense of the absurd with regard to local culture. 

Yan asked me to review her story in the excellent s! anthology, #39. This Latvian anthology has consistently put out some of the best comics over the past decade, and they've always been committed to a strong international presence. Yan's story fit into the theme of the anthology, "The End," as the pieces were about disaster, death, and other endings. Her story was about the death of her father, but it mostly concerned the details regarding his funeral. This is where Yan's sardonic, questioning wit shined even in the face of tragedy. In particular, Yan's ability to navigate certain local customs regarding funerals, like handing out towels to guests and buying fruit as an offering from the dead, made it easier for her to take over the proceedings from her sister. 

Even in this moment of tragedy, Yan was happy that she'd be able to go without taking care of her hair for several days, and was hoping to carry this as an excuse not to deal with other people. While Yan might come off as callous and uncaring, that wasn't really the focus of the piece. Like her mother, her dad was now gone too, and there was nothing she could do about it other than go through the rituals of mourning. That's what this piece was really all about; respecting rituals and providing a proper send-off with dignity but not necessarily with a lot of sentiment. The dryness of her wit is well matched with the spareness of her line, adding tiny comic elements (like her sister's glasses) to serious proceedings. Yan deserves a major collection of her work. 

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