Let’s Not Talk Anymore by Weng Pixin from Drawn+Quarterly presents five generations of young women in her family each at fifteen years old. Pixin, a creative in just about every medium from fabric to storytelling to visual art and famed for her use of found objects, makes use of family narratives to show how the snippets we hear from relatives or experience ourselves are only part of the grander story.
The narrative structure in Let’s Not Talk Anymore is unique in its juxtaposition of the characters’ tales. Rather than simply intercutting the five stories at various points, they are woven together with emotional themes and stark comparisons of each character’s struggle. In 1908, Pixin’s great-grandmother lives in poverty on a farm in South China and is sent overseas in hopes of a better life, despite the difficulties of an arduous journey where she dresses like a boy for safety and tries to adjust to a new world. In 1947, Pixin’s grandmother is attacked by a man as she attempts to find normalcy in the post-war world. In 1972, Pixin’s mother seeks to find attachment in a family that is disconnected but for work. In 1998, Pixin herself experiences rebellion from a rigid polite culture. Then, in a fictional 2032, Pixin’s daughter reflects on how our stories fit together to show the world as a whole.
Part of the enthralling storytelling in Let’s Not Talk Anymore is how the characters intertwine. Each generation of girl reappears as the mother in the next, and readers see how they grew to become the adults they are as new chapters are revealed. Pixin’s grandmother seems to be a distant workaholic, perhaps because she had been adopted by a neighbor to help with housework and missed much of her latter childhood under a mother trying to maximize income. Pixin herself questions everything to the point of fighting with her mother over saying unladylike words, who in turn struggles to find sensitivity and care when she received so little herself. In the future, Pixin then encourages her daughter’s curiosity, guiding it instead of battling it. Just as notes in a melody bring greater meaning as they are played together, so the instances of the women’s lives are more telling seeing where they came from and where they are going.
The brushstrokes and composition in Let’s Not Talk Anymore allow it to stand out as a work of art as well as stories with masterful characterization. Pixin uses a variety of angles and still-life imagery throughout the book to add pacing that gives readers more time to reflect as well as guidance for their thoughts. Her style lends to each era, allowing the colors and clothing of the age to stand out, from peasants’ clothes in the early twentieth century to more formal school uniforms midcentury to today’s comfortable wear covered in pockets and bags for our many things.
Let’s Not Talk Anymore shows the dynamic changes that can happen in lifetimes and generations, yet it also depicts how similar we are once we come to understand what we have experienced.