Phone Calls Are Hard by Lorraine Chuen
By Lorraine Chuen
Sometimes Love is Quiet, Sometimes it's Not There at All is a small, comic collection of short stories about the quiet ways in which immigrant families show that they care for one another, contrasted with the struggle that often comes with trying to navigate white spaces. The stories are drawn from my personal life: they are stories about growing up as a Chinese Canadian in a small, white town; they are stories about (conditioned) self-hatred; they are stories about sadness, loneliness, and grief, but also the love and care that’s woven in between.
Many of the pages are about my grandparents, particularly my ma ma. I really wanted to document the similarities that exist across generational and cultural lines when it comes to loneliness. Earlier this year, my yai-yai passed away, which prompted me to reflect a lot on my ma ma’s experience with love, loss, and solitude. My ma ma and I inhabit extremely different lives - and because she speaks a dialect of Shanghai instead of Cantonese, we often feel like strangers. Despite our vast generational and cultural differences, I can’t help but spot so many parallels in how we navigate our day to day lives: the way we watch television in our beds by ourselves, the way we eat our meals alone at the table, our shared diasporic feeling of not belonging in the cities we inhabit, the way we both want to feel useful and loved. I tried very hard to capture at least some of those feelings in this comic.
Finally I want to mention that I couldn’t have created this comic without the support of the Cup Doodle Project - a 9-week comic making workshop and residency for young Asian artists in Toronto. This residency allowed me to have a shared space with other Asians to exchange stories about our culture, family histories, experiences, and make art together. I am extremely grateful!
Lorraine Chuen is a writer, designer, organizer and comic artist based out of Toronto. Her personal work explores themes around identity as a Cantonese-Canadian, navigating white spaces, and grief in families. Her writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Ricepaper Magazine, and Human Parts. She also co-founded, design, and currently writes for Intersectional Analyst, a blog that deconstructs social issues through infographics and data visualizations. You can the full comic collection Sometimes Love is Quiet, Sometimes it's Not There at All at lorrainechuen.com