The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew
Summary: A graphic novel that won the Eisner award in 2017, this book follows the career of a fictional cartoonist from Singapore, Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Chan did not support the government’s actions after the failed merger with Malaysia in the 1960’s, and he is depicted publishing allegorical comics that criticize the government. Ultimately, it is about the ways in which art can help us to see events from new perspectives
Response: This book was a lot longer than I expected it to be, but it didn’t feel slow. It flows like a documentary and takes place in chronological order. The politics are complicated, but Liew makes them easier to follow by designing a comic series that uses animals instead of people to represent the different political parties involved. So, even if I couldn’t remember who was the leader of which party, I could easily tell from the art itself. It was a lot like Art Spiegelman’s Maus in the use of animals as characters, but because I was familiar with the history that Spiegelman was writing about, I get the allegory much better. In Liew’s book, and as a result of my own complete ignorance of the history and politics of Singapore, it was like reading a children’s history book. The animal characters helped me to differentiate between different political actors, and it was really helpful! It makes me think all history books should be graphic novels.
I read a story about how Anthony Bourdain was booed and even had things thrown at him for saying that he had never tried chicken rice in Singapore. So, that got me excited for this dish. But, I mean, the recipe I followed really was just plain chicken and rice. Like, the kind of thing you would eat if you were getting over food poisoning or the flu or something and couldn’t tolerate any seasoning. It was pretty boring and disappointing. Now, it’s totally possible that there’s a kickass chicken and rice recipe out there, but this isn’t it. I found one which looks tastier and explains a bit better what makes this dish good. It helps to make the rice using the broth from boiling the chicken, which I did not do. I am not knocking chicken and rice! It’s good! And every country seems to have their version of it, so it seems like universal comfort food. But, this project was about trying new things and having little food adventures, and this dish just didn’t meet those expectations. I should have tried something else!
A classic Singapore Sling is my cocktail of choice for Singapore. I didn't have Benedictine, which is what this recipe calls for. I substituted Chartreuse, which is also an herbal liqueur. It was very nice and refreshing cocktail!