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October 2, 2019

CR Review: The American Dream

imageCreator: Shing Yin Khor
Publishing Information: Zest Books, Softcover, 160 pages, 160 pages, August 2019, $16.99.
Ordering Numbers: 1942186371 (ISBN10) 9781942186373 (ISBN 13)

I liked this book. It's modestly conceived and disarmingly executed. If you step back from it, or push your way through its pages with propulsive speed, Shing Yin Khor's memoir of a trip on the old Route 66 from California to Chicago feels like a collection of marketing tag words setting up a series of encounters between the Malaysian-born artist's perception of America with the famous roadway's echoes of a cultural stamp that holds on even after a fade from vibrant times that by most measures ended almost 40 years ago.

It's almost that there is so little to occupy our attention in the foreground of The American Dream? that this forces us to focus on the whole pictures. Road trips are still road trips, no matter the occasion: referenda on a traveler's state of mind. The cartoonist's detail work maintains an open dialogue with what we encounter, distinguished crucially in scenes where we experience the blend of nature into a kind of quotidian but enthusiastic boosterism. I greatly appreciate books like this, because there are not spectacular truths to be had, scales fall from no one's eyes, people fight to be heard about the gentle moments and tableau. With fits and starts The American Dream? makes the case that every grand landscape and cultural self-identity has a longer and more honest existence as something that is gone.
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