Memory of an Avalanche

What does it mean for queer and gender non-conforming brown bodies to exist in a time and place circumscribed by globalization, intensified border control, and state-sanctioned colorblind politics of inclusion? Memory of an Avalanche is a graphic memoir tracing Bo’s immigration battle through neoliberal transgender visibility politics, the professionalization of immigrant rights movements, and queer of color romances of futurity in the era of multicultural dystopia. Set in Los Angeles within a one-year span (2011-2012), the story follows Bo, a recently graduated international student, as he navigates the nonprofit industrial complex to secure a work visa, deals with waves of unaccountable queer and trans community violence, and begins to physically transition from female to male while losing legal status.

Memory of an Avalanche is a genre-bending tale of survival facilitated by chance. Composed of nonlinear story vignettes illustrated in a manga-inspired style, the graphic memoir uses a blend of humor, romance, and suspense to narrate the possibility of belonging precisely at these precarious intersections. Memory of an Avalanche anxiously traces the contours of gender through the protagonist’s attempt to obtain permanent residency, playfully pokes fun at the medical industry’s racialization of transgender bodies, and painfully confronts the uncertainty of life at the crux of institutional and communal neglect. Most importantly, as a character-driven narrative, the graphic memoir underscores intimate relations and coalition-building among three brown queer weirdos—the foreign-born Asian transmasculine protagonist Bo, the Midwest-raised black genderqueer friend Fernie, and the LA-born queer Latina partner of the protagonist, M—as they awkwardly stumble through the maze of respectability politics with uncompromising resilience.

As work of trans of color critique, Memory of an Avalanche draws upon devastating traumas of the past in order to imagine transformative queer futures that challenge capitalistic social formations, transnational circuits of exploitation, and cis-heteronormative systems of erasure. Through alternative economies of desire and representation, this long-form graphic narrative transforms comic conventions into a medium for trans/queer of color survival and community building—one that encompasses the complexity of intersectional struggles, disrupts mainstream LGBT politics of recognition and belonging, and cultivates accomplices horizontally across experiences. Last, but not least, Memory of an Avalanche is a work of queer memory that honors vulnerability as a source of power, resistance, and healing.

 


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