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The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam: An Illustrated Memoir    by Ann Marie Fleming order for
Magical Life of Long Tack Sam
by Ann Marie Fleming
Order:  USA  Can
Riverhead, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

While rummaging through the basement of her grandmother's house, Anne Marie Fleming stumbled upon a picture of her great grandfather, someone she knew little about. Her curiousity got the best of her and sent her on a trip around the world, trying to discover who was the real Long Tack Sam. As she goes from place to place, filling in pieces about her great grandfather, she finds herself continually rewriting his history in order to fit in newer pieces of information. One thing seems evident - wherever Long Tack Sam went, he left an impression that was still felt a lifetime later.

From his humble beginnings in a Chinese village in the late 19th century to his spectacular full-house performances along vaudeville circuits in the United States and other parts of the world, Long Tack Sam lived a life that made him a legend. Fleming painstakingly attempts to unravel that legend to understand her kin. As an independent filmmaker, Fleming decided that she should record her trip and turn it into both a documentary and this rather interesting and impressive illustrated memoir. The final product is an amazing soul-searching and truth-seeking journey, whose presentation is both hypnotizing and exotic.

This unique nonfiction graphic novel includes many drawings, but integrated throughout are real-life photographs, mini-comics on Long Tack Sam's beginnings, timelines, and a variety of other interesting elements that can appear aesthetically ugly as one flips through, but become awe-inspiring when one sits down to read the entire tale. Fleming's journey doesn't just tell one man's story but also explores issues of identity such as nationalism, racism, and class consciousness. As Fleming's own identity could be placed among several different ethnicities, she uses this memoir to illustrate how identity is impacted by so many other things beyond where we are born.

In the end Fleming's story - that shows the amazing abilities of a man she never knew in person - has helped her find herself by exploring his past. Fleming's globetrotting search to connect with her ancestor is an inspiring tale told through a beautiful blend of drawings, pictures, and paintings that will stick with the reader for some time.

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