Yao Xiao

Yao Xiao by Lanny Xiuzhu Li

“As a first-generation immigrant, I think of being queer as part of my process of defining myself instead of letting my definition be decided by spectators,” Yao Xiao tells GO. “As I mature as an artist, I make work to express myself fully, instead of trying to please a mainstream, white, and straight audience. With my comics, I get to express my idea about my own person, contemplating questions that trouble or move me in a way that isn’t tied to a gender or racial stereotype, or the trauma they leave in my life.” While self-described as “goal-driven” as a young artist, she found balance in a gentler, self-affirming approach to making art in recent years. This progression in mindset was followed by her critical success as an artist, with 2020 being a big year for her. Her debut graphic novel “Everything Is Beautiful, And I’m Not Afraid” received critical accolades and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. The children’s book, “How To Solve a Problem,” which Xiao illustrated, also debuted last year and was named a Best Book of 2020 by Publishers Weekly. Her illustrations and art have appeared in Time, The Washington Post, National Geographic, and other publications, and her comic “Baopu” has run in Autostraddle since 2014. Xiao, who emigrated to the U.S. from China, used graphic art to capture her experiences as a queer immigrant. “When I first started writing comics, I was anxious about not having an audience at all. I thought I would be writing into a void, only confirming my own isolation,” she says. “I feel more confident about myself because I feel that my voice is heard and reflected back, and I helped build a community through my messages, the intersectional, transnational, fluid community I was searching for and could not find.” —RK

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