The American Dream?: A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito
As a child growing up in Malaysia, Shing Yin Khor had two very different ideas of what "America" meant.
The first looked a lot like Hollywood, full of beautiful people, sunlight, and freeways. The second looked more like The Grapes of Wrath--a nightmare landscape filled with impoverished people, broken-down cars, barren landscapes, and broken dreams.
Follow along on Shing's solo journey (small adventure-dog included) along the iconic Route 66, beginning in Santa Monica and ending up Chicago. What begins as a road trip ends up as something more like a pilgrimage in search of an American landscape that seems forever shifting and forever out of place.
"Just like Shing in real life, The American Dream? is quirky, honest, captivating, and filled with recollections of weird roadside statues."--Carol L. Tilley, comics historian and information science professor
"Shing Yin Khor's debut graphic memoir The American Dream? is the critical antidote to the whitewashed narratives of the great American road trip." --Kristina Wong, performance artist and activist
"A lovely, deceptively simple road trip memoir that revels in quirky discovery and quiet adventure while grappling with the anger and longing of one immigrant's experience." --Greg Pak, comic book writer
"Khor takes that 'feeling of desperately searching for something better, for a new start, ' and adapts it to their own 'pilgrimage' as immigrant and artist traveling historic Route 66 . . . in whimsical full-color detail."--starred, Booklist
"This is a book that will make you want to pack a bag, jump in your car and travel across America."--Geek Mom
A Forbes Best Graphic Novel of 2019
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About the Author
Shing Yin Khor is a cartoonist and installation artist. Her work has been published in The Toast, The Nib, Upworthy, Huffington Post, and Bitch Magazine. She makes the road trip adventure comic Tiny Adventure Journal, and the tender queer science fiction comic Center for Otherworld Science. She is also the author of The American Dream? A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Mufflier Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito published by Zest Books. She lives in Los Angeles.
"Malaysian-born, LA-dwelling Khor introduces the 'two Americas' that were their obsessions growing up: a Los Angeles 'full of beautiful people and sunlight and open roads' where 10 years of living has also added 'lots and lots and lots of traffic, ' and a landscape defined by Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, in which the Joad family desperately pursues the American Dream. Khor takes that 'feeling of desperately searching for something better, for a new start, ' and adapts it to their own 'pilgrimage' as immigrant and artist traveling historic Route 66--'the part of America that my brain finds more American than anything else.' Traversing from LA to Chicago in their 2010 Honda Fit will require their 'tiny adventure dog, ' Bug, and the kindness of multiple friends and strangers en route, captured in whimsical full-color detail. The end-of-the-road realizations are (surprise!) not what they expected, but the rewards--of course!--are many. What lingers longest is Khor's four-panel epilogue, revealing their trip was taken six months before the 2016 elections; in magnifier-necessary micro-font, the penultimate panel confesses, 'This comic feels like a record of a time when a brown girl could drive America fearlessly.' Khor, with Bug's support, refuses to 'let those jerks keep us down, ' encouragement to all to also keep going."--starred, Booklist-- (6/10/2019 12:00:00 AM)
"Khor was born in Malaysia and immigrated to the United States, eventually becoming a citizen. In this graphic memoir, they record their journey along the historic Route 66 to learn more about America, trying to understand how, as an immigrant, they fit in. Vivid watercolors and a thoughtful narrative bring each stop to life, cataloging quirky Americana, interesting people, and the remains of towns that disappeared as travelers deserted Route 66 for more modern highways. The art is warm and vibrant and, when depicting open vistas and night skies, breathtaking. The writing turns introspective as Khor discusses their impressions as an immigrant and person of color. They feel rejected when they see the 'American owned' signs (code for 'not South Asian') on motels in New Mexico, embraced when they finds a strong immigrant community in Texas, and conflicted at how Native American culture has been promoted through commercialization. This is one person's story, but it reflects the complex experience of many immigrants trying to understand where they belong in this country. VERDICT This beautiful memoir raises thoughtful questions about what it means to be American. A strong addition to most collections."--School Library Journal
"Artist Khor recounts their spring 2016 road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago in this graphic memoir. Growing up in Malaysia, Khor knew two versions of America: 'The first was Los Angeles, full of beautiful people and sunlight and open roads, ' and the other was the America in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, 'filled with dusty roads and big hopes.' After living in the States for 10 years, they and Bug, their 'tiny adventure dog, ' embark on a journey along historic Route 66, hoping to better understand the American dream. Through bright, expressive watercolor illustrations, Khor portrays the memorable locations they pass through, including a former gold-mining town in Arizona where several Hollywood films were shot; Amarillo, Texas, which has become a haven for refugees; and kitschy attractions including dinosaur statues and the Blue Whale of Catoosa. They detail both the amusing (going to the bathroom outdoors) and emotional (loneliness and exhaustion) challenges of being a traveler. Khor's pilgrimage is as much an exploration of themself as it is of nostalgic Americana. Their travels inspire them to share insights into their path to atheism, their anger with xenophobia and racism--which are provoked when they find a motel labeled 'American owned'--and the meaning of 'home.' Many of Khor's observations will resonate with those who have questioned national identity and the sense of belonging. An informative graphic travel journal that offers important perspectives on being an immigrant and American identity."--Kirkus Reviews-- (5/3/2019 12:00:00 AM)
"A lovely, deceptively simple road trip memoir that revels in quirky discovery and quiet adventure while grappling with the anger and longing of one immigrant's experience."--Greg Pak, Comic Book Writer-- (4/30/2019 12:00:00 AM)
"Just like Shing in real life, The American Dream? is quirky, honest, captivating, and filled with recollections of weird roadside statues. Readers will be drawn into Shing's travel narrative by its warm watercolors and personal tone. Along the way, they'll discover that the best journeys--even those that involve thousands of miles of travel and encounters with dozens of people--are really opportunities to learn more about who we are. Join Shing and their furry little poop-filled adventure dog Bug on this adventure: you'll have fun plus you just might learn something about yourself."--Carol L. Tilley, comics historian and information science professor at the University of Illinois
"So much 'iconic' American travel writing is filtered via the lens of white writers like Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, and Elizabeth Gilbert. So how does the rest of America travel and see the world? Those of us who can't even pass as 'American' in our own neighborhoods? Shing Yin Khor's debut graphic memoir The American Dream? is the critical antidote to the whitewashed narratives of the great American road trip. An artist and immigrant from Malaysia, Khor embarks on a solo drive on Route 66, sharing the experience of this post-war American thoroughfare through her very distinct lens. She offers fun facts, cultural commentary, and details on cross country low-budget pooping across her incredible pilgrimage. Her sublime watercolor illustrations bring the reader right into the journey. Her humor is remarkable. This is a great quick read that sticks with you long after the last page."--Kristina Wong, performance artist and activist