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Drawing New Color LinesTransnational Asian American Graphic Narratives$
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Monica Chiu

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9789888139385

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888139385.001.0001

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From Fan Activism to Graphic Narrative

From Fan Activism to Graphic Narrative

Culture and Race in Gene Luen Yang’s Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Promise

(p.165) 8 From Fan Activism to Graphic Narrative
Drawing New Color Lines

Tim Gruenewald

Hong Kong University Press

In chapter 8, Tim Gruenewald uses Yang’s earlier graphic narratives, such as American Born Chinese and Level Up, to explore the conflict among cultural inheritance, imagined racial categories, and identity formation. Using the casting controversy surrounding The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan’s filmic adaption of the TV series Avatar: The Last Air Bender, Gruenewald explains that because Yang and other Avatar fans regarded the cultures they viewed in the graphic TV series as Asian and Inuit, their protests against Shyamalan’s casting of non-Asian actors suggests an uncomfortable one-to-one-correspondence between culture and race. However, Gruenewald’s careful readings of Yang’s graphic narrative oeuvre argue that Yang’s creative work is more sophisticated than the simplifications of the (political) fan protest movement. Bloodline or race is hardly inherent in Yang’s comics work, but rather taught or adopted, and thus Gruenewald explores the thorny relationship between culture and race to reveal Yang’s own ambivalence about their tight correspondence.

Keywords:   Asian American, Graphic novels, Comic Artists, Race, Asia, America, Caricatures, Manga, Visual studies, Pop Culture

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