Dear Tak Toyoshima,
Until I met our mutual friend SAM, I had only hung out with guys like Jason Fox, Calvin & Hobbes, and Charlie Brown–rad lads, to be sure, but on the whole a little difficult to relate to. Good ol’ Chuck could never understand what it was like to grow up under Confucian-inspired ideals (his dad was invisible, for goodness’ sakes); Calvin’s mom never decided to make her own “Chinese Hot Pockets” instead of buying the real thing. And so when I read my first Secret Asian Man strip, I immediately took those bushy eyebrows for my own. I saw right through that secret identity.
As I’m sure you’re aware of already, Mr. Toyoshima, the thing about Secret Asian Man is that it makes us laugh–sometimes at things we know we’re probably not supposed to. And yet it’s refreshing to laugh at Richie’s kind-hearted but rather naÃ¯ve cultural over-sensitivity; it’s joyous to smirk (however wryly) when Charlie talks about the one-drop rule. It certainly makes me happier to laugh with SAM than to cry my eyes out with The Joy Luck Club (again). It’s pretty hard to read with tears streaming down your face. (Though if I had to, I’d rather they be tears of mirth!)
But like any great satire, Mr. Toyoshima, Secret Asian Man does one thing best above all: it makes us think, and think hard. Simon has a point, even through all his mad tirades about the white man keeping the yellow brothers down; racial injustices should make us angry, without making us lose our bearings. And while we chuckle that the unnamed Asian American actor can’t find a job in Hollywood because he doesn’t know Kung Fu, we realize that we really haven’t seen any Asians in the Arts & Entertainment pages lately. For me, Mr. Toyoshima, looking at all the characters in Secret Asian Man makes me wonder about the miracle of human diversity, and how we’re constantly striving to make that miracle mean something. How do we treat our Richies, our Charlies, our Simons, and our Graces? What about our SAMs, our Maries, our Shins and our Bobs? The folks in Secret Asian Man certainly seem to embrace their multiplicity of people. We could all take a panel or two from them.
Andrew Hsieh is a college student. Read more about the Secret Asian Man comic strip here.