Everything Is Beautiful And We Shouldn’t Be Afraid

Have you ever felt out of place in one way or another? Maybe you feel completely out of place like you don’t belong anywhere, because there is always something fundamentally different about you that sets you apart from the others. “Everything Is Beautiful And I’m Not Afraid” is a memoir in the format of a graphic novel, inspired and followed by the tales of Yao Xiao’s life as a bisexual Chinese immigrant. Her stories center around a theme of belonging while tackling issues within them. Xiao has a unique way of visualizing her issues through a simplistic art style and large “outlandish” illustrations throughout the graphic novel. Reading these stories all being so scattered can give the same feeling of reading the thoughts in real-time. You begin and end in the same state as the author, with new realizations and revelations. Many of the topics of the stories and thoughts themselves surround the complex identity of being LGBTQ+ and a person of color. It showcases these overlapping feelings, values, and even problems with being both simultaneously. 

This memoir can be hard to like or even relate to since it showcases themes that some specific people can really connect with. But even if you relate to one aspect of the main character, you could really enjoy it. The stories tend to circle around being Asian the most, and even as a second-generation Asian American, I really enjoy and now have a better understanding of people and my own parent’s struggles with first coming to America. Another aspect of the graphic novel also involves sexuality and homophobia. While it is a sensitive topic and can be rather triggering to some, the author sheds a light on the nature of “traditional” families. The feeling of “betraying” your culture and family. Some of the experiences are inspired by the misogyny the author faces in her real life, such as being catcalled and having to fit into gender norms, some if not most of them being enforced by your own culture. Another interesting theme she explores is the way the world perceives her as a feminine or masculine person. She presents herself in different ways on different days and the treatment she receives is wildly different. Seeing a segment of your thoughts and life in a simple comic form can really lay all your complicated emotions out for you.

This can really be a hit or miss however due to those circumstances. You can really like this memoir, or just be out off by certain aspects of it. Though I could be a tad biased because I heavily relate to the author. It really feels like someone tore you apart and told you about each piece they took from you. But personally, I believe not being able to relate to the character opens an opportunity to learn and empathize with an identity other than yours. While reading, I had this understanding of a struggle I didn’t fully understand, the hardships of leaving family behind in another country. However, some people may think otherwise, which is why this book has some very mixed reviews. If you’re willing to be uncomfortable for just a while, I believe seeing the world through a different style can be enlightening.

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