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Comic: This AAPI Heritage Month, I’m done living in fear
Like many women experience, I was caught off guard when I realized someone was following me home.
It was 10 years ago and late at night. I walked down subway stairs to a train platform and prayed I’d hear the comforting laughs of others. Instead, I met someone who wanted to talk.
That casual conversation slowly tightened its grip into unwanted pursuit. They followed me right up to the entrance of my home.
In February, when the news of Christina Yuna Lee’s murder started to overflow my social media feeds, I couldn’t help but see the similarity between my experience and hers — except, of course, that I was still alive and she wasn’t.
Whenever I hear about yet another violent attack on my fellow Asian American and Pacific Islander siblings, my initial urge is to avoid the news and hide in my home. Despite the candlelit vigils, petitions and promises from politicians, Asian people are still being attacked. This is a painful truth to be living with.
My father recently visited me in New York City, and we talked about ways to stay safe in public. On his final day in the city, he shared with me, a bit reluctantly, that just a day before, a passerby had yelled a racial slur at him.
Perhaps in response to the look of sadness on my face, my father smiled gently and said, “Maybe it was because I was wearing this Tang jacket.” He motioned to the traditional Chinese garment. While I was relieved that he was not physically hurt, I felt as though my heart was slowly breaking apart.
The jacket he wore that day is something I adore; in fact, he ended up buying me the same one. We’ve both resolved that we’ll continue to wear our favorite jackets and venture outside, despite sometimes feeling fearful and hopeless.
As an Asian artist, I’ve realized that expressing my true feelings through art is also an important path to regaining balance in these difficult times.
Each time I share painful, uncomfortable truths through art, I’m surprised to be met with deep, loving connection from the people who see my work. I keep doing this work because art fosters caring and nurtures our communities. This is where I believe healing and hope can emerge.
That’s what led me to create a comic about that event almost 10 years ago, and I’m grateful to be publishing it during AAPI Heritage Month. Although making the comic was a difficult process — revisiting a frightening personal experience and making it come to life with brushstrokes and color — my hope is that, by reading my comic, you feel a loving embrace from me.
We’re in this together.