Speaking of China: ‘Always Goodbye’ Ups, Downs in China, US and Beyond in Graphic Novel by Ray Hecht

https://www.speakingofchina.com/bookreviews/always-goodbye-graphic-novel-ray-hecht

In this midst of this worldwide pandemic, I’ve found myself passing on those dystopian novels I used to adore and instead seeking out a little more “comfort food” in the books I’ve read this year. Lighthearted, humorous and even self-deprecating stories of people grappling with everyday problems that you wouldn’t find in a disaster film have offered me much-needed refuge in these unusual and challenging times for all. Bonus if they touch on experiences I’ve had living here in China and Asia, including cross-cultural dating and relationships.

Thank goodness Ray Hecht sent me his new graphic novel Always Goodbye, which really hit the spot on all fronts.

The graphic novel spans Ray’s life from birth up to 2019, and it makes for a pleasant read, thanks to its honesty. As much as it charts the highs in his life, the novel also delves into those lows and failures too as he pursues a variety of different careers, not always with success. Ray approaches even difficult topics and moments with a refreshing sense of humor, and we could all use a laugh these days. And Ray’s experiences in moving to China and dating locals will resonate with those of us who have visited or lived here.

I’m honored to feature this interview with Ray Hecht about Always Goodbye.

Here’s Ray’s bio from Amazon:

Author Ray Hecht was born in Israel and raised in the American Midwest. He currently lives in Taiwan.

You can learn more about Always Goodbye on Ray’s website. The graphic novel Always Goodbye is available on Amazon, where your purchase helps support this blog.


Why did you decide to create this graphic novel?

I’ve always loved the comics medium. I worry I”m not quite good enough at drawing, and that’s why I’ve been focusing on prose writing for most of my creative career, but after a bit of a dry spell in book publishing I decided to return to my first love…

The decision was partly due to me just trying to practice the art of cartooning again. Focusing on myself has worked well with my writing before, so why not? Autobiography/memoir has been an indie comics tradition for many years, and it simply felt right for me to share my perspective that way. When I sat down and thought about the whole of my life, with the second half focused on being an expat in China until in the “climax” finale I moved to Taiwan, it seemed like a story worth telling.

What’s the story behind the title?

To be honest, I struggled to come up with a title. At last, it came to me.

Perhaps it’s a somewhat dark interpretation, but the one constant in my life seems to be that I always move. I moved from Israel to Indiana to Ohio to California to Ohio again to California again to China to Taiwan.

That’s a lot of goodbyes. So what else could I call this, other than “Always Goodbye”?

In your graphic novel, you chose to organize it chronologically, through your entire life. Why did you choose this approach?

Good question. Indeed, such a narrative doesn’t necessarily need to be chronological. Nor must it start at the beginning. Authors more clever than me may have taken a non-linear approach, but I went with being direct.

Back when I first thought about how to explain my life in a way that made sense, taking notes and interviewing my mom, I realized I didn’t just need to start with my birth; I actually needed to start with my parents. So the first years covered were 1954 and 1956, in Chicago and in the Ukraine of the former Soviet Union. From there, naturally it led to the year that I was born, and so on.

Plus, it was fun to map out a pop cultural or technological marker. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. 1982 to 2019, every year needed at least it’s own little chapter.

What was your favorite year to detail and why?

That would probably be 2008. A seminal year for me.

It was of course the year I risked it all and moved to Shenzhen, China to do the expat thing. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be in the China blog scene at all! But even before I moved, over in Southern California, a lot changed in my life. Maybe in a way that was the year I finally grew up. The crazy Burning Man festival part of that story was pretty interesting as well.

Your graphic novel gets very personal, including in how it portrays people close to you, such as family and friends. How have family and friends responded to your book?

I’ve been very fortunate to so far have almost no negative criticism from anyone portrayed in the book. I feel extremely lucky and grateful for that, otherwise it could have gone awkward.

Even if someone did respond negatively: My philosophy is that they were my experiences and I have a right to express what happened as long as I was involved (so long as I don’t literally libel someone, or expose some deep dark secret or anything). There was a common sense balance to the portrayals. I also didn’t include any last names for obvious reasons.

I needn’t have worried. For the most part, I have found that a lot of people are flattered to be caricatured in a graphic novel by me!

What do you hope people come away with from reading your graphic novel?

I suppose the main hope is to increase readers’ empathy.

If you’ve met me in person, please read to get a better understanding of who I am and where I come from. If you haven’t met me in person, I do hope that my life stories around the world are interesting and entertaining, and can also give some sort of deeper window into a different person’s perspective.

After all, isn’t that ultimately what all art is all about?


Many thanks to Ray Hecht for this interview! You can learn more about Always Goodbye on Ray’s website. The graphic novel Always Goodbye is available on Amazon, where your purchase helps support this blog.

Book review: PET. a memoir of love and sex and domination

30517755

When I came across “The Lesbian Pickup Artist” Flye Hudson’s guest post on SpeakingofChina.com which included an excerpt from the book PET., I was surprised to see the worlds of AMWF blogging (Asian Male White Female) overlap with the PUA scene (Pickup Artists). I’m not terribly familiar with pickup artists, but like many males I read Neil Strauss’s famous book The Game and tried to incorporate some of the advice without putting in too much effort embracing it. As a student of human nature, it’s certainly an interesting phenomenon. And that’s without even getting into misogynistic controversies.

PET. is a memoir by Flye Hudson about her experiences loving a professional pickup artist who happens to be a Taiwanese-American. It is definitely not a how-to guidebook, but simply an avenue for Hudson to express all that she went through in this tumultuous romance – some of which gets quite dark. It is intensely honest, even while names and locations are renamed, but feelings are the point and the honesty gets brutal.

The story begins by detailing the perils of online dating. Hudson, a bisexual woman of college age, posts on a fetish site that she prefers Asian men and only one guy stands out. Called Ryder Chan in the book, he soon explains that he wants a dominant-submissive relationship. Much of the memoir is about that as much as pickup. The Taiwanese/Chinese cultural side is minimal, with some scenes about the family but many people in America have an immigrant background and it’s not the central theme. The true focus is its about a submissive woman who falls in love with a hardcore dominant man, and all the conflict that enfolds from that dynamic.

Her lover is a rather unique individual, and makes her his “pet.” They engage in many sexual adventures which make for a good read. Lots of drama concerning multiple threesomes, hooking up with exes, cheating, his pickup artist history, and trying to work out a sort of open relationship on his terms. Hudson’s narration is often more about feelings than about detailed descriptions, and those feelings tend to range from intense love to intense self-loathing. The invisible “Borderline” is even a character of sorts, not a bad literary technique.

The biggest criticism in my view is that Ryder Chan is not much of a likable person at all. Hudson goes on and on about how much she loves him and the power of his love and being accepted, but judging from the stories shared he is usually rather cruel to her. There is so much talk of loyalty, again and again he gives orders and demands loyalty, and it’s hard to understand what the great appeal is. Basically, the love angle is an example of when writing is telling not showing, as so much of the text talks about love without showing stories that prove it. Even in the worst moment – without giving away spoilers – Chan basically drives the narrator to her worst point in her life and then saves her from it after the fact.

Although, it could be that as a more vanilla reader myself I just don’t understand the whole dom thing. PET. Is also about the author’s journey to be accepted for who she is, darkness and all, and her lovelife is her choice. Perhaps the point is that Flye Hudson loves him, not the readers.

One other disconcerting aspect that must be said is the PUA tendency to rate women by looks. It is a sexual memoir and I do admit I enjoy reading descriptions of beautiful women in intimate scenes.And there’s nothing wrong with having tastes and preferences. But on the other hand, berating women for not being hot in certain parts seems unnecessarily cruel and feels somewhat disappointing coming from a woman author.

All in all, PET. is a self-published memoir which is a vehicle for the author to express herself. It seems to be totally successful at that. The writing is casually and amateur and melodramatic sometimes, it could use some editing, but ultimately the subject matter is so damn interesting that the book is totally worth the read. For anyone curious about alternative lifestyles, whether or not readers themselves would necessarily embrace that sort of thing, it comes quite recommended.

Available on Amazon.