Graphic Novel


Their Then and Now by Joanne Kwan

Student Joanne Kwan interviewed five young people about their experience in the village and created a graphic novel with a chapter devoted to each person. The novel is written in English with plans of translation into Chinese.

Joanne Kwan writes about her aims for the novel:

Ideally, this book will inspire people to cherish their cultural heritage and possibly lead some to start researching their own roots. The second goal I hope this book will accomplish is to promote global unity on a small scale. Through the story, people will be able to relate to those who are different and learn to appreciate the differences in culture that makes all groups of people unique. Categories people set up to designate who is foreign and who is not would dissolve and the viewer will see that people are not all that different from one another.

To see how a group of people live on the other side of the world, in conditions unfamiliar to us, is an eye-opening experience. This is especially true for the Kam people. As a Chinese ethnic minority, they are even more obscure to westerners than the Han majority.

The Kam lifestyle is completely different from ours and yet they still enjoy the same things, family, food, and good company. Also, like many Chinese Americans, they face an ever-shifting predicament of assimilation into mainstream culture. In America, we learn English and embrace western culture. For the Kam, they learn Mandarin and adopt Chinese culture as defined by the Han.

The village of Dimen is constantly changing; nothing is the same from year to year. Aspects of their culture are in danger of going extinct. Hopefully a look into the lives of Dimen’s people will raise questions of how their traditions can be preserved and how our own individual familial customs can be as well.

Read the novel