Imagine being far from home, in a new city where you don’t speak the language and nothing is familiar. Boat-shaped flying machines ferry people to and from work beneath flights of origami birds. Oddly shaped fruits and vegetables are sold from compartments in a giant market wall, and every person you meet has a small animal guide to accompany them, each looking like it sprang fully formed from a Hieronymus Bosch painting. You miss your home. You miss your family. But your job is to work hard and fit in here so that you can eventually make a new life for yourself and those who depend on you. Living as I do in a city of immigrants, I’ve seen & heard the “coming to America” story a million times before. But never like this. There is a magically real gloss on Shaun Tan’s sepia-toned wordless graphic novel that raises the classic “stranger in a strange land” plot to a fresh new height. As the story begins, it would be easy to mistake it for an Ellis Island epic. But it soon becomes abundantly clear that Tan is taking us on a trip to a land none of us has ever seen before, giving us a chance to truly understand the immigrant experience, as we the readers flounder right alongside the weary protagonist, trying to make sense of the beautiful, dizzying landscape Tan has created. So gorgeously illustrated and imagined, you’ll want to own your own copy so you can look at it again and again.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan