cover image Feeding Ghosts

Feeding Ghosts

Tessa Hulls. MCD, $40 (440p) ISBN 978-0-374-60165-2

Hulls’s epic, elegantly etched graphic memoir debut tangles with trauma’s long tentacles as she follows three generations of her family from Mao’s China to Hong Kong in the 1960s and eventually to contemporary Northern California. Sun Yi, Tessa’s maternal grandmother, is a Chinese journalist at a Nationalist-leaning news outlet. After years of harassment and a forced written confession, she flees the mainland with her daughter, Rose, in 1957. In Hong Kong, Sun Yi publishes a (not quite factual) memoir about her abuse at the hands of the communist party that becomes “an overnight sensation.” But trauma takes its toll, and Sun Yi spends the rest of her life in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Rose grows up as a lonely boarding school child, immigrates to Minnesota as a college student in 1970, and eventually brings her mother to the U.S. Tessa witnesses their codependency and wants none of it. As a young woman, she sees herself as a “cowboy” (“Home became everywhere except where I was from”), and takes seasonal gigs (mostly as a cook) from Antarctica to Ghana. Eventually she feels the call of her family’s “hungry ghosts” and embarks on a trip to China and Hong Kong (“the only place that truly scared me”) with her mother, where “the act of returning to our family’s first point of rupture stitched us together into the fabric of a greater whole.” The shadowy, close-hatched drawings detail the landmarks of Sun Yi’s past and render expressionistic portraits of emotional truths, filling panels with maze-like layouts reminiscent of David B. The result is a revelatory work as layered as the history it explores. Agent: Anjali Singh, Ayesha Pande Literary. (Mar.)