Chi's contribution, “InBetween,” appears in the first chapter of the collection and explores identity and exclusion during Chi's first trip to Hong Kong, where she has family.
But while there, relatives viewed her as an “American Born Chinese,” she recalled. In the comic, she draws comparisons to her upbringing in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley and her encounter with a woman in Hong Kong who said, “you speak Cantonese well for someone from L.A.”
“I grew up in an immigrant family,” Chi said. “The Chinese culture is about preserving the culture and the family, and so I grew up in a household like that and grew up in a community that was heavily Chinese so that stuck onto me.”
In high school, art helped Chi fuel her rebellion and explore her identity and family history, she said. The more pressure she felt, the more art she did. She went on to attend art school, where she majored in illustration.
Her parents, while supportive of her decision, encouraged her to consider having backup plans like nursing or education because they didn’t see the arts as a “safe career.” Chi resisted, eventually quitting her full-time job and focusing on freelancing and participating in shows at local art galleries.
In college, she saw more depictions of female subjects that convinced her about her work’s importance, she noted.
“I noticed these women were often just pretty and soft. Often sexualized, but not depicted as strong. Yet, here’s everyone praising the work,” Chi said.
The illustration was inspired by Chi’s love for Doug Sneyd, a cartoonist for Playboy magazine as well as times where she has been hit on by men saying “Ni hao.”
“I’ve had that happen to me, and there was nothing I was doing that said I was Chinese, nor did it look like I didn’t know English,” she said. ”I don’t understand why they think this is the way to get into the hearts of Chinese women. It baffles me, because I’m still a person, trying to say hi to me by saying ‘hello’ works fine.”
Chi hopes to expand her work to include all Asian-American voices.
While she is happy there are more Asian-Americans on television than when she first flipped the channel as a kid, Chi said she believes there is still much work to be done, and that starts by supporting and elevating other Asian-American female creatives such as stand-up comedian Ali Wong, who she said breaks the stereotype of “submissive and quiet women.”
Moving forward, Chi hopes her illustrations will work toward advancing the conversation and breaking stereotypes.
“I want our stories to be told and shared and be recognized as something more than the stereotype,” Chi said. “I hope, for myself, that I can contribute to the Asian-American community in a positive way.”