A Comic on Resilience, Monyee Chau

Image from Monyee Chau's A Comic on Resilience

A Comic On Resiliency by Monyee Chau for the Wing Luke Museum; A/P/A Voices: A COVID-19 Public Memory Project; NYU Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.

by Annie Wang

This image is the last in a series of six peach-colored pages. A graphite drawing of the head of a Chinese lion dance costume fills the left side of the square, its arrival indicated by the body in the previous slide. To its right, yellow text fills the page with the words “But I remember the resiliency that lives within the streets and the people here, my community keeps me strong, and so does the legacy and stories of all those who came before us. I know we’re going to be okay.” These words conclude the comic on a hopeful and determined note after previous pages of uncertainty and worry about anti-Asian racism in Seattle’s Chinatown International District early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Chau indicates in the comic, Asian immigrant neighborhoods such as her own were already vulnerable due to forces of gentrification, which were only exacerbated by the pandemic and the significant rise in anti-Asian sentiment and violence. The repurposed “yellow peril” rhetoric resulted in local Asian businesses suffering major economic losses and vandalism, uncertain as to whether they would recover post-pandemic or be taken over by people “with deeper pockets.” Attributing the spread of coronavirus to Chinese culture and bat-eating, restaurants were hit especially hard as fewer people visited the district due to apparent xenophobia.

Monyee Chau is a 1.5 generation queer Chinese Born American based in Seattle whose work seeks to decolonize and convey the “in between land” of the Asian diaspora. “A Comic on Resiliency” was made for and donated to the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, an institution that seeks to empower Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) by hosting the stories, histories, and work of the community through their own voices. With the record loss of business in the Chinatown International District during the pandemic, Chau’s work fostered support for the Wing after they had to cancel their auction event. The resiliency comic speaks to the role of art to foster hope and solidarity in such trying times.

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