by Shaun Tan
For many of us who grew up in the USA, it's not easy to imagine the immigrant experience. When we travel the world, we often see signs in English, posters for American movies, American restaurants or at least American foods. Shaun Tan, whose parents immigrated from Malaysia to Australia, has created a beautiful analogy in his new graphic novel, The Arrival. Using no words, but 120 pages of breathtaking pencil drawings, Tan creates a world completely foreign to the reader, and brings his hopeful immigrant into it. The writing is unfamiliar, but that's just the beginning. The city, the birds and animals, the food, the local customs, everything the immigrant encounters is strange, daunting, but also wondrous. We watch as he slowly makes his way, registering with the state, finding shelter, finding work, making friends, saving money to send home to his own family, in hopes that they will soon join him. It's an old and universal story, but Tan has brought it home beautifully.