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ISSUE 116 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 9/27/2002

Alumni Reflections

By Meredith Johnson
Arts Editor

Friday, September 27, 2002

Two St. Olaf alumni have publications hitting local bookstores this fall. The first, Tyler Page 99, is the author, illustrator and publisher of the graphic novel I Met a Girl. A graphic novel, Page explains, is "basically a really long comic book." The second, Mai Neng Moua 95, is the editor and contributing writer for Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans.

I Met a Girl Set at St. Olaf, I Met a Girl is a story that Page calls "more or less" autobiographical. The focus of the book is the authors relationship with his first college girlfriend. While the novel has a self-contained plot, it is also part of a larger story arc that the author says is broken into a trilogy of sorts." Page is already halfway done with the second installation of the series and plans to leave the storyline open for an even longer series. Creating graphic novels is a profession that Page can see himself engaged in for years to come. "I could envision it being extremely interesting writing about what happens when you get married and have kids for the first time," says Page. Rather than write about superheroes, Page prefers to tell stories about real people and "things that most people arent writing comics about right now." Pages interest in illustration dates back to a childhood love of drawing. By the time he was a student at Minneapolis Washburn High School, Page was making his own comic books and distributing them to friends. At St. Olaf, Pages interest in comics was relegated to an on-the-side hobby while he pursued a studio arts major and focused on painting and drawing. His interest in the field was revived after doing some research and realizing that he could create graphic novels for a living. Page created a small comic book for his senior slide show, which he remembered as being "really gratifying and really interesting to do." Since I Met a Girl is essentially an autobiography, the characters are real St. Olaf alumni, but Page reported that his friends have no objections to being included in the story. "I was showing it to my friends while I was working on it," he explained. "They think its cool to be in a comic book.

Bamboo Among the Oaks Like Page, Moua loves being able to publish stories that have yet to be widely accepted into the publishing world. For Moua, that means sharing the stories of her Hmong heritage. As a junior at St. Olaf, Moua signed up for a creative writing class with the sole intent of wanting to record her mothers story. "I didnt really think about writing until my junior year," she said. The more she wrote, though, the more she began to read great works of literature  and "in all of those that I found, I didnt find one Hmong voice." That summer, Moua formed the literary magazine Paj Ntaub Voice, a journal aimed at bringing to light the works of Hmong writers. Eight years later, Paj Ntaub Voice is still thriving, and Moua said that Bamboo Among the Oaks is, in some ways, an extension of the journal. The book compiles the best of the journals, as well as new pieces by new authors. Moua contributed two prose pieces and several poems to the volume. Because the Hmong writing system was not developed until the 1950s, much of Hmong culture is ingrained within oral tradition. While Moua is an advocate for preserving this tradition  "I feel really strongly about [it]"  she also recognizes the importance of recording Hmong voices on paper. "It almost seems like when you dont have stories written down, you dont exist," said Moua, referring to the absence of Hmong influence in many multicultural classes. "I think thats the significance for me, putting Hmong writers on the map."

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