Drawing Together: Storytelling through Cartooning with Granite State’s Indonesian American Community

Project Lead

  • Monica Chiu


Chiu is using the powerful storytelling features of comics to capture the pulse of Indonesian Americans in the Granite State about coming to and/or living in New Hampshire. Drawing Together, is a community-based project that uses the practice and pleasures of cartooning to create an archive of racial living and of being among Indonesian Americans of Somersworth.

The project is a collaboration among UNH, New Hampshire’s Racial Unity Team and Indonesian Community Connect (ICC), Marek Bennett (local comics artist and winner of NH’s 2021 Governor’s Arts Award two Indonesian American artists.

Drawing Together will unite history, public engagement and scholarship through publications (paper and/or digital products) created among and with Indonesian American narrators and artists (of their lives in NH, about emigration from Indonesia, about raising a second-generation in New England, among other stories); and through the opportunity for others to examine the comics through approaches in visual culture, immigration studies, cultural studies, race and ethnic studies, and American studies about representations of being in, of, and from New Hampshire. Sites of learning like these produce formal products for public registers, including those of academia, concerned citizens and their organizations, teachers, and the wider NH community. Chiu is working to publicly house this work and make it accessible for all.

“Storytelling is integral to our humanity. We tell stories about our past; we use stories to announce or hide our identities, to punctuate political and pedagogical points;we narrate stories of grief and healing, protest and change.”

A Little About Dr. Chiu

Since her arrival at UNH in 1998 as an Asian Americanist, she published two monographs on Asian American literature and edited three collections, including, very relevantly, Asian Americans in New England: Culture and Community (2009). Her work with Laotian American teens in the region—her chapter contribution to the collection—attracted the attention of the Institute for Asian American Studies at UMass-Boston, where she landed a fellowship in 2003-04 to complete the work.

A second related collection that Chiu edited is Drawing New Color Lines: Transnational Asian American Graphic Narratives (2014), the scholarly product of a 2011-12 Fulbright at The University of Hong Kong, when she was provided funding to invite 12 scholars from around the world to a symposium she organized on Asian/American comics. Seven years later, a subsequent 2019 four-week Fulbright Specialist award at Minnan Normal University, Fujian, China, provided her the opportunity to lecture to faculty and in classes on Asian American comics.

As an active campus participant, she has served in countless leadership positions related to diversity, equity, and social justice, from heading up the former President’s Commission on the Status of People of Color, to forging the English department’s requirement that all of our majors take one course in race or theories of race, to chairing the department’s Diversity Committee evolving from that initiative, and to serving as UNH’s 2018-19 interim Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Community. Chie was awarded a 2009 President’s Excellence through Diversity Faculty Award.