Comic strip: this AAPI heritage month, I’m done living in fear

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Like many women, I was taken aback when I realized someone was following me home.

It was 10 years ago and late at night. I walked down the subway stairs to a station platform and prayed to hear the comforting laughter of others. Instead, I met someone who wanted to talk.

This casual conversation slowly tightened his grip on an unwanted pursuit. They followed me to the entrance of my house.

In February, when news of Christina Yuna Lee’s murder started spilling onto my social media, 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 of another violent attack on my Asian American and Pacific Islander brothers and sisters, my initial urge is to avoid the news and hide at home. Despite candlelight vigils, petitions and promises from politicians, Asians are still under attack. It is a painful truth to live with.

My dad recently visited me in New York and we discussed ways to stay safe in public. On his last day in the city, he shared with me, somewhat reluctantly, that the day before a passerby had shouted a racial slur at him.

Perhaps in response to the expression of sadness on my face, my father smiled kindly and said, “Maybe it’s because I was wearing this Tang jacket. He showed the traditional Chinese dress. While I was relieved that he wasn’t physically hurt, I felt like my heart was slowly breaking.

The jacket he wore that day is something I love; in fact, he ended up buying me the same one. We both decided to continue wearing our favorite jackets and venturing outside, even if we sometimes feel scared and hopeless.

As an Asian artist, I realized that expressing my true feelings through art is also an important way to find balance in these difficult times.

Each time I share painful and uncomfortable truths through art, I am surprised to encounter a deep, loving connection from people who view my work. I continue to do this work because art fosters kindness and nurtures our communities. This is where I believe healing and hope can emerge.

This is what led me to create a comic about this event almost 10 years ago, and I’m grateful to publish it during AAPI Heritage Month. Although creating the comic was a difficult process – revisiting a frightening personal experience and bringing it to life with brushstrokes and color – I hope that by reading my comic you will feel a loving embrace of my part.

We are in the same boat.

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