Sunday, June 9, 2013

Boxers & Saints (Part II)

Saints is Gene Yang's graphic novel that parallels Boxers.

It is the story of Four Girl- the fourth daughter born, on the fourth day of the fourth month, and the only one of her mother's children to live past a year.  Her grandfather refuses to give her a name, because "four" is a homonym for "death."  She is unwanted in her home, and finds solace (and food) from the Christian missionaries and converts.  She takes the saintly name Vibiana, and begins working at an orphanage in a Christian compound.  Throughout the novel, she sees visions of Joan of Arc.  Guided by Saint Joan, she becomes a maiden warrior, fighting for her faith against the Boxers.  

This graphic novel, as with its companion, is very well done.  It takes the alternate perspective- that of the Christians converts and foreigners- and contrasts it with those fighting to free China from them.  The book also does particularly well with highlighting symbolism in Chinese numerology, as well as showing the place of females in that society.  

The colors are mainly sepia, with visions of Joan of Arc in bright gold.  The gold gave a very ethereal feel, and more purposeful than ghastly.  Like "pay attention to me- I'm not haunting you, I'm actually showing you something very important."

One thing that really caught me was a layout-ish difference between the two novels.  In Boxers, the chapters are titled by years- in Saints, by Vibiana's age.  This was kind of a punch-in-the-gut for me, as I hadn't realized how young these characters were.  While reading Boxers I had assumed the characters were in their twenties.  I was wrong.

Maybe it's because I'm a girl, but I connected more with Saints.  However, I can't really compare the two volumes separately.  Together they tell the story of an important time in history, from two perspectives, and they do it in a way that is accessible- but still heart-wrenching.  They weave together the society, history, traditions, religions, arts and symbolism of that period in China.  The illustrations are fantastic.  

All in all, a perfect recipe for reaching kids and adults alike.  Boxers & Saints gets two thumbs up from this librarian!

For my review on Boxers, click here.

Saints is published by :01 First Second.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 09.10.13

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