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Comic novella highlights achievements of Asian Americans in World War II

Building on the interest and success of their 2019 film “From Gum Saan to Golden Spike,” the OCA-Greater Seattle continues their creative narration of Asian American history with the recent project “In a Yellow Tone.” This comic novella highlights the contributions and sacrifices made by Chinese American military veterans through the lives of two cousins, Gee Tung Wong and Joe Louie Wong, and their experience growing up in Seattle’s Chinatown International District during World War II (WWII).

The story follows the two fictional characters beginning with their adolescence in Seattle and weaves in the work of local historic figures and organizations like Wing Luke, Danny Woo, Hazel Lee, David “Gobby” Woo, the Cathay Post, Chinese American All Volunteer Group, Japanese American Regimental Combat Unit, and the 1st and 2nd Filipino American infantry.

Though the project initially began as a short movie, production was forced to a halt in March 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With most of the story filmed, the coordinators decided to use the footage to illustrate frames from the film and adjust the format to a comic novella. 

“We opted to use the comic book format because comic novellas are popular for many youths,” says Connie So, University of Washington American Ethnic Studies (AES) professor and project lead. “We would like our comic novella to be used as a learning tool about WWII while celebrating the achievements of the Chinese Congressional Medalist.”

OCA-Greater Seattle and AES students helped write, edit, film, and direct the movie and are also working on the illustrations and descriptions for the comic novella. So hopes that participation in this project helps students understand the role Asian Americans played in WWII.

“Many of the students putting together the comic novella seemed to have a greater grasp of the history of WWII and its impact on many Asian Americans,” So says. “Some of the students commented that they read about WWII, but they learned much more about Seattle and the Asian Americans who lived here while writing the inserts.”

The group is hosting an in-person event to unveil the project on August 9 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Rainier Arts Center. After the event, print copies of the comic novella will be available through the Wing Luke Museum, OCA Asian Pacific Advocates of Greater Seattle, American Ethnic Studies program at the University of Washington, and Chinese American Citizens Alliance.

The project is a collaborative effort of various groups including OCA-Greater Seattle, University of Washington Khmer Students Association, Wing Luke Museum, Japanese Language School, Filipino Community Services, as well as many individuals, and is funded in part by a Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Neighborhood Matching Fund grant.

Applications are open for the fall Neighborhood Matching Fund grant cycle. The application deadline is September 13, 2021. If you are interested in applying, you can attend one of our three virtual workshops to learn more about the funding and the application process.