Hope and Catharsis in 'Everything is Beautiful, and I'm Not Afraid'

 (Andrews McMeel Publishing)

Everything is Beautiful, and I'm Not Afraid is, on the face of it, a comic book about living as a Chinese immigrant in New York City, being queer, and facing rejection by family because of it.

But dig deeper into this philosophical and revealing collection, and you'll find that 30-year-old illustrator Yao Xiao also coincidentally, and accidentally, captures the malaise and uncertainty many of us currently face in our collective coronavirus lockdown. More importantly, she offers ways to battle those feelings of isolation and insecurity and, thanks in part to her dreamy and sometimes surreal illustrations, the end result is thoroughly cathartic.

For every expression of fear or hurt, Everything is Beautiful offers a self-care tip, or a reason to be grateful. For every dark moment (the artist, lonely, asking in vain to the universe for answers), there is an exercise in refocusing. ("Look at lots of art. Make lots of things. Love people and still fight.") For every expression that "It's important to be angry and lost," there is a reminder that's it's also important "to carry on dreaming of what you love."

And amongst all the book's deep thoughts and philosophical feelings, there are also moments of feminist commentary, body positivity, pet adoration and, yes, humor. (The "What are you Afraid of? Bingo" page is a particular highlight.)

At its purest essence, Everything is Beautiful is a book about love. The love we have for others and ourselves, and for the magical and confusing planet that we live on. It's about fighting through all of the other messes and upsets in order to hang on to that core principle.

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It's also about hope. At one point, Xiao declares point blank: "Miracles are in fact real and, if you are very lucky, you might even see one." Other than "Stay home" and "Wash your hands," what better message could we possibly receive right now?

Use it like a mantra in these uncertain times if you have to: Everything is beautiful, and I'm not afraid. If you repeat it for long enough, it starts to become real.