February 07, 2008
Happy Toon--er, Lunar New Year!
We love having an extra excuse to wish you all a happy, peaceful, and prosperous New Year--and we have a few musings for you on this, the first day of the Year of the Rat. Plus it's a great excuse to bust out some special Toon Thursday artwork in honor of the holiday. We'll let you decide whether the cute little rat is bringing you ly see or making off with it.
TadMack: I love that there are always so many ways to refer to this year. It’s the Year of the Earth Rat, if you look at the twelve year, twelve animal zodiac, of which Rat is the first. Or, you can say it’s Wu Zi, or Stem-Branch, which is year nine of a sixty year cycle that has a different name for each of sixty years, or it’s 4705 – counting from what’s considered to be the recorded beginning of the Chinese civilization. Either way, it’s supposed to be the year of smart, magnetic, well-liked, quick-witted schemers...who are also selfish, protective and calculating. That’s so many people – and so many characters in books I’ve read – that it makes the Lunar Festival/Tet a big draw for everyone. Plus, fireworks. There’s really never any good reason not to have pyrotechnics.
a. fortis: I didn't really observe Chinese New Year until I got married, but it's a major holiday in our house because my husband is from a part-Chinese-American background. I've really gotten to enjoy some fabulous Cantonese food and rousing games of mah jong over the years, and I count myself truly lucky to have made my already-multicultural family even more multicultural.
If you're looking for some lit by Asian-American authors to celebrate the Lunar New Year, why not venture into the world of graphic novels? (I know, I know--I might be a little biased towards the toon territory. What can I say?) If you haven't checked out our interview with Gene Yang, author of Cybil- and Printz-award-winning American Born Chinese, that might be a good place to start. I also just reviewed a fun little Minx title by Derek Kirk Kim over on our sister site Readers' Rants, entitled Good As Lily. Good As Lily has great girl appeal, and American Born Chinese transcends the idea of a narrow target audience--both things that are fantastic to see happening in the world of comics. Moreover, both of these titles provide interesting (and very distinct) perspectives on what it means to be Asian-American.
And on that note, I'll let TadMack have the last word on Lunar New Year:
I think Western culture loves Eastern culture because they choose to count differently. The Eastern calendar provides a chance to start over again – and get serious about trying harder to do the things one wants to do with the year, without the tension of a countdown at midnight. Besides, you can be a year older or a year younger, depending on how you count, using traditional Chinese or Western figuring. Things just seem a lot more fluid and gracious in an older culture, perhaps… Plus, fireworks...