Thnks fr th Mmrs
— Sarula Bao
Published by Endless Editions, 2019 ︎ See Artist’s Website
Interview with Sarula Bao
I am so thrilled to share one of my absolute favorite zine projects of 2019, Thnks fr th Mmrs. A particularly delightful element of this work is the 2008 inspired mixtape inscribed on the inside backcover of the book. Bao was kind enough make us a spotify playlist for your listening pleasure: we highly recommend you give it a listen HERE, as you read through her insightful words below.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
CB: Thnks Fr Th Mmrs is a queer reimagining of experiences from your middle school days. Can you tell us about how and why this book came to be?
S: I'm a very nostalgic and sentimental person, and I view my middle school days with a strong mixture of endearment and shame. There's something very precious about how ridiculous, dramatic, and idealistic people are at that age, so I really wanted to make a story that could evoke the feelings of being a child experiencing dating for the first time. I really love coming of age narratives, and I really believe that time period in which you're having a lot of experiences for the first time is so important. It was truly born out of my wish as an adult queer woman for my first stupid boyfriend to have been my first stupid girlfriend instead. In a way I wanted this comic to be a gift, to myself, to other queer people my age who might relate. I wanted to give that first learning experience, first heartbreak and first mistake to a queer experience that usually we don't get at that age. I feel like most people my age, if they start dating in middle school, it's usually going to be a straight relationship because you haven't figured out that you're queer yet or are very affected by compulsory heterosexuality and other societal pressures, or maybe you did know you were queer but that experience was still radically different from a straight one. Maybe things are better for kids now, but at least for my generation it certainly wasn't. Like we don't get to be stupid and gay until we're in our late teens or twenties and have to be more serious about it by then than an 8th grader does. So it was really important to me to give that first foolishness to us, and to make sure that it really screams 8th grade, which for me was 2008. I wanted to really relish in that setting and make it as true to the time period as possible.
CB: What was it like to work with material from your childhood? How did you revisit that content? Is childhood often a theme or source material for your work?
S: Looking back at my childhood, there was a lot of things that happened back then that were very silly, dramatic, and painful at the time, but now when I think of them, they’re very humorous. It’s all very important stuff to go though and I love the specific humor of being a kid growing up in 2008, often it's stuff that you wouldn't get without hindsight, so I had a lot of fun working with the material. The love note that is inserted in the comic was based on a real one that I received in middle school! We were both very into Twilight and anime. There's a happiness and fulfillment that comes from replicating an experience and specific subculture, and wanting it to ring true, and see my own childhood reflected back at me. It makes me think of myself at that age with a lot of compassion and understanding. I went through some old messages, yearbooks, binders and facebook posts and such to really remember and capture that specific voice and dramatic way of thinking. I'm very glad to be an adult now, but reliving listening to Fall Out Boy, wearing clip on red streaks from Hot Topic, and making the perfect AIM Away message is really fun when you're a safe distance away. I think both childhood and growing up are certainly often themes and source material for my work, I see those experiences as vital to who we are today. To be able to look back on it as an adult often brings new understanding or appreciation for what made us ourselves.
CB: The form of the book is so ambitious and interactive: hand-folded notes, center gatefold spreads, and details outline every frame. Can you tell us a bit more about the process of designing the book? How and why did you make some of these exciting choices?
S: I really love narrative itself, and that was something else I wanted to talk about with the comic. When you're experiencing first love as a 13 year old, it's the biggest deal ever. It's huge and all encompassing and romantic, but it's also not "real" love. It's a dream, a story. So my visual and aesthetic language for the comic focused on a multitude of flowery framing devices to really hammer in that it's a narrative. I love symbols and being able to play around and tell the same story with different tools and different layers, so often I used morning glories to surround roses (everlasting, eternal love that is surrounded by a frame of something ephemeral). The imagery of the frame is what's really going on - it's a story, the memory of childhood is a story, and the dreams of childhood are also a story. I really used a gratuitous amount of flowers, and sparkles, and color combinations, all meant to evoke the feeling of a fairytale or a shojo manga. The gatefold was really because I wanted to enforce that overwhelming feeling of love by going as big as possible, and with the hand-folded note I wanted to speak to the meticulousness, seriousness, and care that children put into their feelings. I wanted the reader to feel those same things that they may have felt at that age. Every choice was meant to further back my intentions behind this book.
CB: What do you think your childhood self would have felt about the work you’re making now?
I don't think my childhood self would have liked it very much probably, haha. I had very specific tastes in art (sexy pizza face anime boys) and story (dark and gritty story about nature of humanity), neither of which is really what my work is like now which is ok. I think the things I was into at the time had their uses in some way and had some good and bad influences on me. I think I would've felt annoyed at the work I make now since I was very much trying to avoid Chinese themed things as a child with internalized racism, and I would've thought the style and elaborate borders and such as “too girly”!!
You can purchase Thnks fr th Mmrs here!
© All Copyrights to the artist, Sarula Bao
No visible ISBN
5.3 x 6.7 inches