In Wordless Imagery, An Immigrant's Timeless Tale In his beautifully illustrated book, The Arrival, Shaun Tan depicts the struggle of immigration — without a language barrier. Author Ruta Sepetys explains how a wordless story can say so much.
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In Wordless Imagery, An Immigrant's Timeless Tale

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In Wordless Imagery, An Immigrant's Timeless Tale

In Wordless Imagery, An Immigrant's Timeless Tale

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

We often discuss how authors are able to convey feeling through their writing - love, humor, jealousy, anger - portrayed through the use of language. But author Ruta Sepetys knows that words are not the only tools for telling powerful stories. She has this essay on a wordless book with a resonant story. It's for our series You Must Read This, where authors talk about a book they love.

RUTA SEPETYS: A few years ago, I had a work assignment in central Malaysia. When I returned home, I lamented to a friend that I was constantly lost, never knew if I had enough ringgits for a meal and was unable to communicate with anyone. I felt like a confused child. My friend laughed. Now you know how your father felt when he arrived in this country, she said. When I picked up "The Arrival" by Shaun Tan, I realized just how much truth there was to her comment. I felt like I had discovered an old photo album. The sepia pages and pictures were scattered with scratches and birthmarks.

SEPETYS: Shaun Tan's graphic novel captures the stories of millions in the cycles of departure, integration and growth. "The Arrival" is an immigrant story, but in a more universal sense, it conveys the feeling that we've all had at some point of being lost, frightened or confused in an unfamiliar environment. It reminds us that new beginnings can be scary, and the spirit of patience and hospitality are always a welcome port in a storm.

NORRIS: Ruta Sepetys is the author of "Between Shades of Gray." She was talking about the graphic novel "The Arrival" by Shaun Tan. You can comment on this essay and find other recommendations from You Must Read This on the books section of our website. That's at npr.org/books.

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