We asked Belle Yang — author of the graphic memoir Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale: “What books have left a legacy on your creative life?”
A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage)
[When] I read this nearly 20 years ago, [I loved] the luxurious tale of a man’s plodding pathos and humor in searching for and creating a house of his own. My family had been refugees from mainland China to Taiwan to Japan and finally to America, in search of a private space where we could be free to live and love.
The Enigma of Arrival by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage)
I read this after the Tiananmen massacre in China, where I was neither truly Chinese [nor] foreign. I reread the book on returning to the United States. It is a claustrophobic retelling of Naipaul’s arrival in England as a poor student from Trinidad, too afraid to venture from his lodging, where he ate his meals over a trash bin. The pain of adjustment and the constant reminder of his foreignness were like a scab repeatedly torn off.
The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh Edited by Ronald de Leeuw (Bulfinch Press)
Few realize that Van Gogh was not only a painter but also a well-read literary man. His letters found me when I returned from my three-year sojourn in China. I was encouraged by his adamant road [in becoming] an artist — starting his career at the late age of 30. His brother Theo’s support was like my [mother] and father’s unflagging emotional and spiritual wisdom, which [has] sustained me these 25 years.