Cathy Choi, a 2021 graduate who completed an ECL minor in Medicine, Literature, and Culture recently published a comic in Literature & Medicine, a leading journal in the field. Cathy originally created “No Space for Trash from Aliens” as the course project for Prof. Kym Weed’s ENGL 763: Introduction to Methods in Health Humanities, a core course in the Literature, Medicine, and Culture graduate programs that explores diverse methodologies and genres within the health humanities. After reading creative works and scholarship in Graphic Medicine, Cathy was inspired to explore the intersection of healthcare access, mental health, and comics.
Capitalizing on her interest in graphic pathographies, Cathy composed her own comic that, as she explains, “gives a sampling of [her] life as a daughter of immigrants who are navigating the process of legal residency.” While playing with the concept of an “illegal alien” by representing herself as a green, one-eyed space alien, Cathy uses the comic form to explore stigmas related to mental illness in Asian American communities, the challenges of navigating healthcare and legal systems, and the pressures that first-generation immigrants feel to uphold the myth of the “model minority.”
The comics medium was appealing to Cathy because it can “appear playful at the surface” while also providing “commentary on politics, socio-economics, and other complex structures that affect and shape the everyday person.” Her comic does just that, crafting a multidimensional character who deals with the everyday stresses of balancing mental health, familial and cultural expectations, and responsibilities as an Asian-American “alien.”