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Memories, Seared In

There is almost nobody in comics that can get to essential truths of life, the deepest parts of our souls, as well or as naturally as Shing Yin Khor. We at Fleen said as much when Khor started their current contributing gig at Catapult back in May, and their latest piece there only reinforces the notion.

Stone Fruit Season is about a number of things. It’s about peaches and sense memory. It’s about identity and depression. It’s about finding strength to go on in times of crisis and white supremacy. It’s an awful lot to ask for a nine-page comic, but then again almost nobody in comics can take watercolor and pain and weave them into a meditation on what is, what never was, and what should be.

Khor talks about the time they ate a peach in in the shower:

But in the midst of my ennui, wet and haggard and broken, I ate a cold sweet peach —
— and then I wanted to eat another one.

Yes, I dared to eat a peach.
And I had to live, so I could eat another.

Those words, without the accompanying art (spare, beautiful, haunting), would be the basis of a poem, an ode of reflection. With the art (grasping, desperate, radiance coming up from the fruit) it becomes something more.

I never really thought of peaches as a Chinese fruit, until I did.
I never really thought of myself as a Chinese person, until I did.

It becomes a means to attach to one’s heritage, a lifelong quest for Khor, where food has previously been a point of focus.

The Chinese origins of the peach made it exotic, more alluring. Once easily available on low hanging trees and given freely to enslaved people, the marketing and commercialization of peaches made them valuable; a white person’s fruit.

The phrase “Georgia Peach” is not used to describe the beauty of Chinese women or Black women.

Peaches, Khor teaches us, are bound up in the (perhaps uniquely American history) of hype and transformation of the commonplace into the valuable, something reserved for the landed and wealthy. And maybe most of all, Khor shares with us that an awareness of the questionable and immoral is not all we are capable of, that there is joy and power to be found in the mundane and the stolen:

I understand that this is not a magic fruit; it is a fruit that mythologized itself on the back of Black suffering, still picked by brown laborers.

But to me, there’ll still always be something about the first sweet peach of the year.

Sweet nectar and soft pulp dripping down my arms —
— eaten greedily, ravenously —
like a terrified animal who has survived to see one more stone fruit season.

She ends on a defiant howl, a declaration for all of us in these times, no matter what our own version of peach or madeleine or ratatouille may be:

Screaming —
I lived, I lived, I lived.

Ah, but I said there’s almost nobody in comics that can capture emotion and critical moments in life with perfect crystalline clarity, which means that there are some. And at least one of those is, today, defiantly howling for her own reasons.

Kate Beaton’s family comics, I’m on the record as saying, are something I would trade the entire rest of the comics medium for; absolutely nobody can get to emotional truths — the universal that grabs onto the primitive parts of our brain and says you know this is true — with so few lines (either text or inks). She has one today on the Twitters that ranks with the best she’s ever done. And just in case it ever goes away, here’s a copy¹.

If Stone Fruit Season doesn’t make you stand a little straighter, if Mary’s choice of affection recipients doesn’t make you double over again in laughter, Maybe take a nap? Definitely switch things up and get yourself to a place where you can accept rage and joy and helpless laughter. Let us know if you need help getting there; we all deserve that much.

Spam of the day:

Stem cell therapy has proven itself to be one of the most effective treatments for Parkinson’s Disease.IMC is the leader in stem cell therapies in Mexico.

Weirdly, this message was written in (and mechanically translated from) Japanese.

¹ To quote Beaton, apropos of the cat’s expression, she grabbed him by the haunches, and pulled him in for a sweet kiss on the butthole.

Interesting that the comic — graphical essay? — has multiple call-outs to T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Made me go look that up, it’s here:

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