THE MAN IN THE MCINTOSH SUIT by Rina Ayuyang is a love letter to the Manong generation
Comic and Manga

THE MAN IN THE MCINTOSH SUIT by Rina Ayuyang is a love letter to the Manong generation

The American dream is an elusive myth. It is the idea that success is possible through hard work regardless of social rank. In the early 20th century, the American dream meant everything to generations of immigrants arriving in this country seeking new beginnings, wealth, and a chance to improve the social conditions of family back home. . Instead, many faced racism, anti-miscegenation laws and low wages. The man in the McIntosh suit, Rina AyuyangIt is (Whirlwind Wonderland, Take it to the boogie) new graphic novel, examines the sacrifices made by the male generation (first generation of Filipino immigrants) chasing the American dream through the lens of a Filipino farm laborer camp in 1920s Watsonville, California.

Bobot, a Filipino-trained lawyer, came to the United States in search of a better life for himself and his young wife. He suffers back-breaking work for low wages on a farm outside San Francisco. Bobot sets an example for his fellow camp workers by getting up the earliest and taking on dangerous jobs to help older co-workers. But one day, Bobot discovers a secret held by one of his colleagues, and this secret triggers a trip to the seedy underground of San Francisco.

The story of Ayuyang is an expansive and textured cinematic saga that marries romance, intrigue, and social commentary into a deeply effective narrative. Ayuyang spoke to Rhythm on his art and his appreciation for the sacrifices of this generation of ancestors.

Nancy Powell: Wow! The man in the McIntosh suit is a fantastic read with so many emotions surprising ups and downs and twists. What inspired you to tackle a graphic novel about the Filipino farmworker movement set on the eve of the Depression?

Portrait of Rina Ayuyang

Rina Ayu Yang: Oh thank you. Glad you liked it! I’ve always wanted to create a detective comic series. When I finally decided to write The man in the McIntosh suitI not only wanted to pay homage to classic Hollywood film noir, but I also wanted to do a character study of Bobot and his counterparts in the late 1920s/early 1930s, and I knew I couldn’t relate their stories not to mention the circumstances that they and many other Filipino immigrants found themselves in during this time – and who had to work in the fields or canneries along the west coast.

Powell: What did you know about this piece of history? And was extensive research involved?

Please: I had general knowledge about the Filipino American Diaspora when I heard about it when I was a student at San Francisco State University. When I started writing the book, I searched through many books and digital archives focusing on the Filipino immigration experience, all of which were fortunately made available by Filipino ethnic studies professors, writers, librarians, journalists and community organizations. I also had access to family photo albums and interviewed my mother and aunt to learn more about the experiences of my great-grandfather, grandfather, and great-uncles and aunts leaving the Philippines. and starting a new life in San Francisco in the 1920s.

The man in the McIntosh suit page 039
The Man in the McIntosh Suit, page 39, courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly.

Powell: Can you explain what the term male means? And did you have any relatives or do you know of other descendants of this first generation of migrant workers?

Please: The word “manong” means “elder brother”. This is how you address an older male relative whom you consider a sibling or cousin. It is a word from the Filipino dialect spoken in the Ilocos region of the Philippines. The wave of Filipino immigrants that came to the United States in the 1920s-30s is considered the Manong generation because they were mostly male, single, from the Ilocos region. My family is actually from Ilocos Sur, and my great-grandfather and his brothers (and a few years later my grandfather) on my mother’s side were part of the Manong generation and settled in San Francisco in the early/mid 1920s.

Powell: The consequence of chasing the American dream plays a big part in Bobot’s story, especially given what he has to endure as a worker despite his extensive training. What did the American Dream mean to you growing up as a first-generation Filipina? And how does Bobot’s reality compare to your parents’ experiences?

Please: I continue to feel so grateful for what my great-grandfather, my grandfather, and the many other Filipinos did a hundred years ago to improve their lives and provide for their families back home. The same goes for my own parents who came to the United States in the 70s during the fourth wave. Just to have the courage to leave the familiarities of home and travel to another country and adapt to all the cultural differences – I fully understand the sacrifices made and just want to honor them, for all they have done not just for their families and communities, but for America, through these books.

Powell: Just like he did in It’s the boogie’s faultmusic occupies a prominent place in the plot of The man in the McIntosh suit. Did you have an existing playlist in mind of songs you wanted to use to frame the story, or was it more spontaneous?

Please: At first I created a playlist of 1920s and 1930s standards that I listened to while writing and drawing, just to get into the spirit of film noir and romanticism, but then I started choosing songs with very specific lyrics to certain scenes in the book like the soundtrack of a movie. So I hope readers of the book can play some of the songs on future readings to get a more immersive cinematic experience.

The man in the McIntosh suit page 141
The Man from the McIntosh Suite, page 141, Courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly.

Powell: I loved the color palette you chose to portray the realities of the different characters’ lives, their dreams, and their pasts. That and the musical nuances do indeed lend themselves to a sort of cinematic movement through timelines. Can you tell us about the process by which you developed the art style of the book?

Please: Thanks, yes, that’s exactly what I wanted to do with the color in this book. In It’s the boogie’s faultI used all the colors of the rainbow to make it like a Technicolor musical, and with The man with the McIntosh, I wanted to use a smaller color palette throughout, choosing a color close to the black and white of 1920s-30s film noir. So I chose cool blue colors for the city scenes and mostly green and sepia tones for the farm scenes. Then I used bright pinks and purples to match Bobot’s emotional state at certain points in the book. Then, for the flashbacks, I used more subtle pink and orange tones as a mix of Bobot’s current emotions and his nostalgia for the past. At first I intended to use colored pencil and Copic markers, but I started to figure out how to use my iPad and quickly loved how Procreate’s Oil Pastel brush made this look blurry, filtered and luminescent reminiscent of classic film noir. movies. For the line art, I used Procreate’s Derwent Pencil brush.

Powell: What were some of the challenges, narrative or artistic, that you encountered while writing and drawing the story?

Please: I think the main challenge was to write fiction again after writing autobiographical comics and memoirs all these years, but I felt so connected to these characters that I almost felt like I was writing about family. I was also nervous about writing a mystery graphic novel which is a totally different beast, but I rose to the challenge, being a fan of the detective and detective genre.

The man in the McIntosh suit page 075
The Man in the McIntosh Suit, page 75, courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly.

Powell: How many books are planned in the series? And given that the location of the story is set in Watsonville, California, will the mob violence that took place in 1930, where Filipino farmworkers were beaten, feature in future books?

Please: Towards the end of The man in the McIntosh suit, you can start to see the hostility and violence that Filipinos faced in Watsonville, and then the various character reactions and how anti-Filipino sentiment affects the story direction of all these characters. I have at least 2 more books planned in this series because there are so many stories I want to tell about Bobot and the other characters in this book, and they will definitely cover many aspects of Filipino immigration history American, including the barriers they faced of discrimination and racism that affected many of the decisions they had to make to survive in America.

Published by Drawn & Quarterly, The man in the McIntosh suit is out in stores now.

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