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™ and © 2006 Shaun Tan
Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is a story of immigration: a man leaves his dragon-infested homeland in an attempt to find a safe haven. He takes refuge in a technologically advanced industrialized city in the sky, a place full of opportunity but also terrifyingly complex. To make matters worse, this man is all alone. Because he does not know the native language, he can communicate only by sketching on a notepad. In addition, he has been forced to leave his wife and child in his native country. This man must now attempt to find shelter, food, work, and companionship in a frightening new place.
The Arrival is full of surreal images, and is in fact completely wordless. It may seem at first as though this story is fantastical, but fellow author Brian Selznick, in his blurb on The Arrival’s back cover, helpfully explains: “it slowly dawned on me that this bizarre world was how any immigrant might see the new place they go… everything is different and scary and magical.” This is the key to understanding The Arrival, and with it, one can see this book as a beautiful presentation of a person’s experience of immigrating to America (or really any new land of opportunity), making a life for him or herself, and hopefully ensuring that the loneliness in that scary new place doesn’t last.
— Eric Garneau
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