Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mail Order Bride, by Mark Kalesniko

Mail Order Bride, by Mark Kalesniko
Copyright 2003
Fantagraphics Books
Graphic Novel
261 pages
Author's Website
Challenges: Dewey's Graphic Novel Challenge

What led you to pick up this book? I love me a graphic novel and all. I picked this one up for a graduate class originally (back in 2006 or so), and I ended up not taking the class. However, I guest lectured in the same professor's undergrad version of the course, and he invited me to take part in a conference call with Kalesniko. It was great fun, and I really enjoyed chatting with the author.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. From the publisher: Monty Wheeler, a pathetic, emasculated, 39-year-old virgin struggling with his own societal demons, expects Kyung Seo (his Korean mail order bride) to fulfill his female Asian fantasy stereotype: domestic, obedient, hardworking and loyal. But Kyung, tall and accent-less, is much more human than Monty is ready to accept. Kyung soon finds, in addition to predictable dissatisfaction with her husband's inane expectations, outspoken inspiration in Eve Wong, a western-born Asian woman. Could Eve be Kyung's ticket to rebellious self-fulfillment, or do her actions not always ring true? Through explorations of art, passion, identity and rebellion, the reader must ponder strength and cowardice while Kyung herself fights a potent war between independence and safety.

What did you like most about the book? This is one of those cases where I really liked everything about the book. The illustrations are stunning, the story is both provocative and quite funny, and it made me think! What more could a girl ask for?

What did you think of the characters? I found Monty exceedingly annoying. I wanted to shake him (and the majority of his friends) and tell them to snap out of their stereotypical assumptions. If you've read American Born Chinese, by Gene Yang, this book has much the same type of message. It confronts ethnic stereotypes in a very clever way.

Share a favorite scene from the book: Near the end of the book there's a big showdown between Monty and Kyung wherein they basically both come to realize that their assumptions about each other are not as black and white as they originally assumed. They realize they're both at fault for the disintegration of their relationship. It's a very powerful scene--both in image and written text.

Recommended for those who like graphic novels and a good story in general. If this were made into a written novel, I think it would be just as powerful and entertaining a story.

In general, I'd call the writing, illustrations, and story beautiful! And a really quick read. I polished it off in an hour or two.

Note: This is my fourth graphic novel for the challenge.

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