Comic and Graphic Novel Roundup
Super Sikh #2: Viva Las Vegas
By: Eileen Kaur Alden, Supreet Singh Manchanda and Amit Tayal
I admit that I’m writing this mini-review several months after having read the comic and that starting at the second issue probably doesn’t help matters, but I don’t remember being blown away by Super Sikh. I asked my friend about the first one (she’s Sikh, and her younger brother apparently likes the series) and our conclusion that it Super Sikh is overall pretty “meh.”
Don’t get me wrong, the art is beautiful. The dialogue, however, is lackluster and the plot relies on a few trope and stereotypes, which is ironic because Super Sikh is one of those comics with an underlying political message. It seeks to change people’s opinions of Sikh people. Unfortunately, while in the process of exonerating Sikh people, the comic throws Muslims under the bus. Not Cool. Muslims are cast as the terrorists who are out to destroy America or American ideals or something like that, and because Deep is the superhero of the story, America’s enemies become his enemies. Super Sikh quickly devolved into an “us versus them” (America versus Muslims, or Sikh versus Muslims) story.
I don’t think I need to list examples of Islamophobia in America (or in European countries) here, but I will mention the existing tension between Sikhs and Muslims. I’m going to be general with my following explanation and I know not everything I say is applicable to everyone, but I don’t want to get into a long, complicated discussion in this blog post.
For some reason, a rather large portion of Sikh Americans (and Sikh Canadians) detest Muslim Americans and Muslim Canadians. I think the sentiment has to do with the partition of India. Sikhs see themselves as fundamentally Indian (with some choosing to elevate their Punjabi heritage) while Muslims, especially South Asian Muslims, are seen as traitors. According to the Sikh haters, Muslims dared to abandon India and go to Pakistan. This is obviously not true of all Muslims. Not every Muslims is South Asian, and there were Indian Muslims who decided to stay in India during the partition. Still, although Sikhs are fighting to end discrimination against their people in the Americas, some turn a blind eye to discrimination and violence against Muslims when we should all be fighting on the same side. The end goal is religious tolerance and the end of discrimination against all racialized people.
Anyway, Super Sikh‘s art was nice, but it wasn’t nice enough for me to forgive the perpetuation of an unnecessary feud.
Lady Stuff: Secrets to Being a Woman
By: Loryn Brantz
This comic collection was super disappointing. To be honest, I requested it on NetGalley by accident, because I mistook it for Sarah Anderson‘s work. Once I realized this was something else entirely, I decided to roll with it. How bad could it be, right?
Apparently, very, very bad. The jokes felt tired and at times forced. I felt like I’d seen most of the comics online before. Brantz writes for Buzzfeed and has work featured in several children’s novels. I didn’t bother to find any of her other books, but I will say that adult comic collections are not her strong suit. Sure the situations are relatable, but the stories aren’t told in a particularly interesting way. Most of the comics are one or two panels, and quite a few are “before and after” type drawings. I found myself yawning as I scrolled through the pages. I couldn’t wait the for book to end. If any of my readers see Lady Stuff, move on. Sarah Anderson does a better job of showing us what it’s like to be a lady.
The Girl Who Said Sorry
Written by: Hayoung Yim; Illustrated by: Marta Maszkiewicz
I wanted to end this post on a positive note, and The Girl Who Said Sorry is a perfect book. It’s short, sweet and to-the-point. Essentially, a young girl continually apologizes for living her life because the way she wants to live is not the way her elders expect her to live. In the end she finds her inner strength and refuses to apologize for being herself any longer. It’s got a strong feminist message, one that’s not only helpful for children, but also adults. Too often women learn to apologize, to make themselves smaller for the convenience of others. It may take a while to unlearn it, but if we can all teach our girls they don’t need to do it in the first place, then we’re making progress.
I will comment that because this book is so short, it focuses mainly on the girl. It doesn’t give boys (or rather, male-identifying people) any pointers on how to be allies, but I think that’s okay. Allyship can be the topic of another book. I think The Girl Who Said Sorry is fine just the way it is.
As if the lesson weren’t enough by itself, half of the proceeds go to Girl Up, which is a UN Foundation campaign dedicated to empowering young girls. I plan on buying the book for that reason alone. By the way, if you haven’t heard of Girl Rising (a separate campaign), you should definitely check that out.