"Feeding Ghosts reminds us how much the personal is political . . . an audacious, awe-inspiring feat. For me, it was an essential read." —Ling Ma, author of Bliss Montage
An astonishing, deeply moving graphic memoir about three generations of Chinese women, exploring love, grief, exile, and identity.
In her evocative, genre-defying graphic memoir, Tessa Hulls tells the story of three generations of women in her family: her Chinese grandmother, Sun Yi; her mother, Rose; and herself.
Sun Yi was a Shanghai journalist caught in the political crosshairs of the 1949 Communist victory. After eight years of government harassment, she fled to Hong Kong with her daughter. Upon arrival, Sun Yi wrote a bestselling memoir about her persecution and survival, used the proceeds to put Rose in an elite boarding school—and promptly had a breakdown that left her committed to a mental institution. Rose eventually came to the United States on a scholarship and brought Sun Yi to live with her.
Tessa watched her mother care for Sun Yi, both of them struggling under the weight of Sun Yi's unexamined trauma and mental illness. Vowing to escape her mother’s smothering fear, Tessa left home and traveled to the farthest-flung corners of the globe (Antarctica). But at the age of thirty, it starts to feel less like freedom and more like running away, and she returns home to face the history that shaped her family.
Extensively researched and gorgeously rendered, Feeding Ghosts is Hulls’s homecoming, a vivid journey into the beating heart of one family, set against the dark backdrop of Chinese history. By turns fascinating and heartbreaking, inventive and poignant, Feeding Ghosts exposes the fear and trauma that haunt generations, and the love that holds them together.
About the Author
Tessa Hulls is an artist, a writer, and an adventurer. Her essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Atlas Obscura, and Adventure Journal, and her comics have been published in The Rumpus, City Arts, and SPARK. She has received grants from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture and 4Culture, and she is a fellowship recipient from the Washington Artist Trust. Feeding Ghosts is her first book.
"A deep, illuminating dive into Chinese history, mental illness, and inherited trauma." —Thi Bui, author of The Best We Could Do
“Detailed, vulnerable, [and] harrowing.” —Booklist (starred review)
“From start to finish, this book is a revelation . . . A work that glimmers with insight, acumen, and an unwillingness to settle for simple answers.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Feeding Ghosts swallows you up in swirling eddies of ink. A visual jungle gym with the iconography of David B., the journalistic thoroughness of Joe Sacco (I learned so much), the intellect of Alison Bechdel, and a vulnerable heart completely unique to Tessa Hulls. I loved it." —Craig Thompson, author of Blankets and Habibi
“With incandescent imagery and prose, Tessa Hulls excavates the incredible, sweeping story of her matrilineal lineage, wrestling with the ways in which her family’s ghosts, experiences with mental illness, and loneliness reverberate across generations. A striking, gorgeous memoir from a spectacular talent, Feeding Ghosts will linger with readers for years to come.” —Kat Chow, author of Seeing Ghosts
“This riveting personal story, beautifully rendered in words and drawings, probes into three generations of women haunted by war, revolution, dislocation and not belonging. With breathtaking determination, the author/artist confronts her own fears across time, history and place, from Shanghai, London, San Francisco Bay area and elsewhere—even Antarctica. Feeding Ghosts will haunt you; I could not put it down.” —Helen Zia, author of Last Boat out of Shanghai
“Like an archaeologist of the unspeakable, Tessa Hulls carefully excavates her complicated relationship with her mother and grandmother, digging through layers of secrecy, silence, and personal identity, disentangling her family history from the horrors of the Sino-Japanese War, Maoist China and colonialist power structures. The sentence you just read is a dry and clichéd attempt at suggesting the astonishing depth and power of Feeding Ghosts, which, frankly, is the greatest graphic memoir I have ever read. This book taught me things. This book made me cry. This book gave me hope.” —Jason Lutes, author of Berlin
"Feeding Ghosts is not just an epic, deeply personal excavation of China’s traumatic recent history. It is also an exacting investigation into the nuts-and-bolts dynamics of intergenerational trauma, the way voices from the past tell their stories again and again in our bodies and our lives until we finally hear them clearly. A massive and moving achievement." —Ben Ash Blum, author of Ranger Games
“Can something be monumentally vulnerable? This big book is—it is a searing history of the most private deformations to three generations of women in one small family, set smack in the operatic context of the convulsions that racked China in the 20th century." —Kay Ryan, former United States Poet Laureate and MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellow
“Feeding Ghosts is a tremendous achievement—a fierce and artful recounting of generational and historical trauma, and a tale of mothers and daughters that is rife with hard-won wisdom and surprising humor. Feeding Ghosts is a rare thing, a graphic memoir that would be a great memoir even without the graphics. This book is a demonstration of how closed hearts can be opened.” —Peter Rock, author of Passersthrough
“As a geeky connoisseur of graphic novels, this beautiful, powerful memoir is now my all-time favorite. Magical, authentic, and personal, Feeding Ghosts illuminates both the love and pain that endures across generations. When I finished this book, I wiped my tears and ordered three more copies to give away.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of The Many Daughters of Afong Moy
“A visual and literary masterpiece. This graphic memoir’s gripping intergenerational and transcultural narrative combines with Hulls’s striking graphics and careful research to serve as a testament to the power, joy, and agony of living between worlds. Downright unputdownable, Feeding Ghosts is a tour de force and a triumph of a debut!” —Melody Moezzi, award-winning author of The Rumi Prescription
"Feeding Ghosts is a brilliant, profound accomplishment, and provides a vivid account of how trauma is passed down through generations. Merging history, memoir, travel writing, psychology, and comics, Feeding Ghosts is an arresting and transformative blueprint for navigating personal and intergenerational healing. It is a must-read." —Anne Liu Kellor, author of Heart Radical: A Search for Language, Love, and Belonging
“Feeding Ghosts is an artistic and intellectual tour de force. Part mémoire, part history, it is a lesson in intentional graphic storytelling in which people are simultaneously rooted and unstuck in time and space. As profound and dark as Art Spiegelman, as mortal and relatable as Marjane Satrapi, as authentic and folksy as Li Kunwu, her artistry sews together country and family, trauma and revolution, feeling and analysis. The result is not only an expedition into Tess Hulls' family past, but also the humanity within history, the need to negotiate with the past, and the legacies of trauma within us all.” —Trevor Getz, author of Abina and the Important Men
“I savored every page of Feeding Ghosts. The inking is gorgeous, the history is clear and digestible (while also being devastating), and it threads the line between honesty and compassion that I appreciate so much in any memoir, but especially one dealing with family. Shelve it with Maus, Fun Home, Persepolis and The Best We Could Do." —Maia Kobabe, author of Gender Queer
“A book of immaculate courage and hard-won healing. Feeding Ghosts is a magic trick of a memoir, managing to be both sparse and expansive in its exploration of inherited trauma, the weight of cultural expectation and the limitations of language to explain where and what hurts. This knotty family story demands dexterous hands and a vulnerable heart in bending propulsive prose into poignant art; Tessa Hulls is the rare artist-writer who brilliantly pulls this off.” —Putsata Reang, author of Ma and Me
“Feeding Ghosts reads like an allegorical fever dream. It's a brilliant story of a mother, daughter, and granddaughter, as they defy historical silences and generational trauma to carve their own paths in the world, both toward and away from each other. Every inch of Tessa Hulls's graphic memoir is a beautiful feast, from the lines on the page to the art on the pages.” —Asale Angel-Ajani, author of A Country You Can Leave
“Generous, raw, meticulous; I absolutely loved this book. Every page ripples with ink, but nothing in the telling is black and white. Tessa Hulls careens through time to knit the hopes and horrors of her family’s history into a tale humming with emotion, symbolism, and insight. Intractable traumas melt and transform under her brush. Feeding Ghosts shows us that we needn’t be consumed by the past, but if we’re willing to face its complexity, we each have the capacity to transform it.” —Lucy Bellwood, author and illustrator of 100 Demon Dialogues and Baggywrinkles
"Feeding Ghosts is visually and verbally stunning. I could identify with so many aspects of Hulls’s story, and found her rendering of her story to be truly original. The illustrations are capacious in scope and vision. In their black and white jaggedness, they evoke a wide and deep history, story, and heart. Hulls’s text is steely, clean, and at times, humorous, as she describes lovingly all the beautiful people in her life." —Victoria Chang, author of The Trees Witness Everything and Dear Memory
"Both epic and intimate, Tessa Hulls' Feeding Ghosts is a breathing testament to the power of discovery through art, not just of the self but of family, language, and history. In unearthing the ghosts of Mao's devastating impact on the psyches of her mother and grandmother, we witness Hulls come to terms with her own demons through indelible words and images that demonstrate the unique power of the graphic novel form. Feeding Ghosts is sure to inspire many of us to examine our own pasts, and the generations of lives that formed our beings." —Meredith Talusan, author of Fairest