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Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale Paperback – June 6, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With a lilting voice and a strongly etched fairy tale hand, writer/artist Yang weaves a riveting true-life tale of ancestral jealousies and familial woes from her father's recollections of growing up in China. Her book begins with Yang in her 20s, recently graduated from college but unable to get herself out into the world, wounded by self-doubt and bad memories of an ex-boyfriend turned stalker. Back living with her immigrant parents in Carmel, Calif., Yang listens to her father's stories about his grandfather, a man of wealth and stature whose many feuding sons left the family dismally ill-prepared for the winds of change that WWII and Mao's revolution sent violently whipping through the land. Betrayal and infighting pockmark these stories of woe, though they're buttressed with an appreciation of an uncle's Buddhist disavowal of material possessions or desires. Yang's story, which balances her own struggles with those of her ancestors without clumsily trying to equate them, echoes both with the tragic darkness of King Lear and the clean austerity of classical Chinese poetry. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Children's book illustrator-author Yang neatly layers family history across several generations in this graphic memoir. Returning to her parents in China in the wake of a stalking ex-boyfriend's threats, she attends to teasing out the details of family stories she has often heard but never deeply asked about. She wants to know how her grandfather's family dynamics during his youth echoed down the generations, the effects of Mao on the family's social as well as economic fortunes, the roles women have played and been denied traditionally, and her own father's progressive and loving attitudes. Rather than approaching this in a linear manner, Yang spins out the story in concentric eddies and whorls, an excellent reverberation of her black-ink style, with its repetitious patterns and unusual angles of vision. This is an excellent book for those intrigued by family stories or by the history of twentieth-century China as well as anyone who likes memoirs made more dynamic by incorporating more than just the writer's perspective on events. --Francisca Goldsmith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (June 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393339963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393339963
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #640,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Belle Yang, subject of the PBS documentary, 'My Name is Belle,' is frequently asked whether she is primarily a writer or a painter. Answer: "When I'm writing, I'm a writer; when I'm painting, I'm a painter." She is also asked whether she is a children's author or of adult books. Answer: "I write for children, adults and everyone in between. Now I am also a graphic novelist."

Born in Taiwan, Belle Yang spent part of her childhood in Japan. At age seven she immigrated to the United States with her family. She attended Stirling University in Scotland, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in biology but went on to study art at Pasadena Art Center College of Design and the Beijing Institute of Traditional Chinese Painting.

She worked and traveled in China for three years and returned to the United States late in 1989 after the Tiananmen Massacre.

She returned with gratitude in her heart for the freedom of expression given her in America, certain she would firmly grasp this gift with both hands.

Illustrated, adult nonfiction:

Baba: A Return to China Upon My Father's Shoulders, 1994 Harcourt Brace

The Odyssey of a Manchurian, 1996 Harcourt Brace


Picture books:

Hannah Is My Name, 2004 Candlewick Press

Always Come Home to Me, 2007 Candlewick Press. Awarded Chinese American Librarian Association Best Picture Book of 2008

Chili-Chili-Chin-Chin, 1999 Harcourt Brace
Upcoming Works

Upcoming works:

A graphic with WW Norton. "Forget Sorrow: A China Elegy"

"Foo the Flying Frog of Washtub Pond," Candlewick Press

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I feel honored to have been given an advanced copy of Forget Sorrow, as it will surely be placed among the greats of the graphic memoir subgenre. Like Maus, Persepolis, Fun Home, and Epileptic, it uses sequential art as a perfect medium for presenting an autobiographical narrative. Bell Yang's background in calligraphy is evident in her elegant line art, evoking both Classic Chinese drawings and traditional cartooning.

The book is about the expectations and assumptions that parents have for their children and those that kids have for their parents. Belle Yang (here referred to by her Chinese name Xuan) moves back with her parents after cutting ties with her abusive boyfriend, chillingly portrayed as a mouthless giant. As she receives both criticism and compassion from her father, he tells her the story of his youth and their ancestral home back in China. His grandfather was a landowner before the Communists took over, a patriarch to four sons and their families. He would eventually lose his land and position of authority and see both betrayal and boundless devotion from his sons.

The memoir also tells of Xuan and her father and how they meet half-way in their differences. Their compromises show the importance of coming to terms with the mistakes you have made that have hurt yourself and others, and being willing to forgive others and yourself. The book also perfectly demonstrates the powers of familial love and finding your own self-worth.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Belle Yang has revealed insights into her own life and relationships and into the family relationships of her father with his siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in a traditional Chinese family compound and the changes wrought by the turbulent changes in Chinese society during and after World War II. She has accomplished this in a new-to-her cartoon format that is quite interesting and effective. Her drawings portray the character and emotions of the subjects of her book in a immediate fashion that would take longer to express in words alone.
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Format: Hardcover
Forget Sorrow ranks up there with Neufeld's AD New Orleans, Satrapi's Persepolis, and Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese. The art is exquisite and the story lingers in your mind even after you finish reading it, reminding you of the power of familial tales to tell thought-provoking stories that will continue to teach us in the many years to come. I highly recommend that teachers and librarians look into purchasing this book.

Dr. Katie Monnin, author of Teaching Graphic Novels and Assistant Professor of Literacy at the University of North Florida
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Format: Hardcover
Wow! Belle Yang has created a masterful book that, as closely as possible, resembles a woodcut book with a deeply ancestral/familial feel. I am not Oriental, but through her thoughtful tale, as a reader I began and actually felt part of her story.

That is the mark of a master story teller.

From Xuan's personal experience of discovering her own history and sense of belonging, we are carried along a personal journey through generations of Yang family members. 20th Century China is seen through eyes of favoritism and opportunity, defeat and victory, subjugation and survival while a grandfathers' spiritual life (once respected) is diminished and once more valued almost 6 decades later.

The stories of four children, intertwine much like a biblical parable, highlighting and teaching as we see from a distance, shortcomings and failures. There is selfishness, spirituality, and deception. There is also humility, pride, loyalty, and tradition.

Sadly, stories like this are not restricted to Chinese ancestry. My own grandfathers' stories have not been told as they should have. I am sure that other readers can attest to the same regret. Our histories can re-define us, can mold us, and guide us.

"Forget Sorrow" should be on the must read book list for anyone seeking an introduction to illustrated fiction. More powerful than the Watchmen, or God Loves Man Kills, there is no substitute for stories of our pasts.

[...]

Tim Lasiuta
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Format: Paperback
I happened across this book in the library and knew as soon as I thumbed through the pages of rich, clean drawings that it would be a satisfying read. The story of family generations turned out to be just as compelling as the illustrations and I happily sank deeply into the multi-sensory experience of reading/seeing this well-told tale.

Visions of Yang's black and white landscapes still linger in my mind's eye and the twists and turns of each character's fate have kept me thinking about this ordinary, yet amazing family for a long time.
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Format: Hardcover
Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale offers a fine graphic memoir, entering the graphic novel field for the first time to share her personal story. She began drawing her memoir during a dark time when she was forced to confine herself to her parents' home to avoid an abusive ex-boyfriend-turned stalker. Her involvement in her family's stories and her changes between old world Chinese parental roots and modern Chinese-American lifestyle makes for an involving graphic novel memoir perfect for graphic novel and Asian-American collections alike.
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