Mini book review: ‘The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye,’ by Sonny Liew

by Patty Templeton

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye,” by Sonny Liew, won the 2017 Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist – basically, the Oscars of graphic novels. It also won the Singapore Literature Prize and was on a crap-ton of best-of book lists from NPR to the Washington Post to the A.V. Club before becoming a NYT bestseller.

Liew’s Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a cartoonist in Singapore. The graphic novel opens with Chye as an old man talking to an interviewer about his career. This dense, intense story alternates between chunks of Chye’s personal history and excerpts from his comics. Chye’s first comic of note involved a giant robot that only spoke Chinese. As you read, Chye’s robot comic becomes an allegory for Singapore trying step out from under British Colonial rule.

That may sound complicated. It’s not. It’s a conversational graphic novel with an artistic style that grows more detailed as Chye ages. Liew’s created a gorgeous work that explores the comic book artist he wishes Singapore had in its history.

If you enjoy artistic exploration, easy-to-read world history, or m-effin badass graphic novels, grab a copy of “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye.”

Patty Templeton


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