As a child growing up in Malaysia, Shing Yin Khor had two very different ideas of what “America” meant. The first looked a lot like Hollywood, full of beautiful people, sunlight, and freeways. The second looked much more like The Grapes of Wrath—a nightmare landscape filled with impoverished people, broken-down cars, barren landscapes, and broken dreams.
Those contrasting ideas have stuck with them ever since, and help explain their fascination with Route 66, the iconic 2,500 mile stretch of road which runs from Chicago to Los Angeles . In the spring of 2016, ten years after moving to LA and four years after becoming an American citizen, Khor embarked on a road trip along Highway 66 in a 2010 Honda Fit, accompanied only by their trusty road-trip adventure dog Bug.
Khor’s graphic memoir The American Dream?: A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito allows readers to ride shotgun for a deeply personal and playful pilgrimage of roadside attractions, abandoned towns, diners, and motels. Like the very best road trips, the book relishes in unusual sites and roadside kitsch, with detours providing arcane trivia and profound observations alike.
Over the course of the book, we join Khor as they visit Oatman, AZ, a former gold-mining town where several Hollywood films were shot. We stop at Two Guns, AZ, the abandoned site of the former tourist trap known as “The Apache Death Cave”. We take in plenty of iconic landmarks, from Holbrook, AZ’s dinosaur statues to Oklahoma’s Blue Whale of Catoosa.
The fact that Shing Yin Khor’s trip preceded the 2016 Presidential Election by a few months adds an intriguing perspective. As they write, “This comic feels like a record of a time when a brown girl could drive America fearlessly.”
The American Dream?: A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito goes on sale from Zest Books on August 6, 2019, and you can check out some of the interior artwork below.
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