The story takes a humorous look at a very serious problem—some studies show that Asian American women aged 18-28 may be nearly eight times as likely as the norm to exhibit binge eating disorder, something that author Chen, an actress who has appeared in movies such as "Saving Face," has experienced firsthand. Even more troubling: Due to Asian cultural taboos against discussion of mental illness, very often such problems remain undiscovered until serious harm results. (Eating disorders are just the tip of the iceberg: 15.9% of U.S.-born Asian American women have contemplated suicide in their lifetime, exceeding the national estimate of 13.5% for all Americans; lifetime estimates of suicide attempts are also higher among U.S-born Asian-American women than the general population, 6.29% versus 4.6%.)

THE POWER OF FOOD


1. In "You Are What You Eat," Ting reads up on traditional Taoist beliefs about the "hot" and "cold" properties of different foods, after a magic belt lets her experience them firsthand


2. Kripa Joshi's introductory comic for the "Girl Power" section features her signature character, "Miss Modi," realizing that size can sometimes be an advantage

The stories in Section Three seek to redefine the female Asian American superhero—offering up depictions that are strong but three-dimensional, dealing with real-world issues like family expectations, peer pressure and body image, as well as the more extraordinary ones that costumed crimefighters face. In doing so, it combats the exoticization and sexualization that mar the characterizations of heroines like the X-Men’s Psylocke, Batman nemesis Lady Shiva and independent comics icons Shi and Kabuki.


You Are What You Eat, pg. 100

Story by: Lynn Chen; Art by: Paul Wei

In this story, bulimic teenager Ting receives a mysterious birthday gift from her grandmother—a mystical sash intended to help her overcome her eating disorder, by guiding her toward a healthy equilibrium of qi. But Ting unexpectedly realizes that eating foods traditionally believed to have "hot" properties while wearing the belt causes her body to radiate extreme heat, and consuming foods with "cold" properties causes her to generate paralyzing cold—powers she uses to help others in need. As a side effect, she finds that her appetite for doing good has given her a less self-destructive way of curbing her weight: Exercise.

Section Three: Girl Power

Discussion Questions

1.  What are some of the pressures Asian American women face that might lead to body-image issues and eating disorders?

2.What are some of the reasons why psychological and emotional problems might go unnoticed among Asian Americans and other immigrant communities?

3.In the story, Ting is unable to discuss her problems directly with her parents or her friends, but is able to speak about them freely with her grandmother. Why do you think that is? What are some of the communication gaps that exist between immigrant parents and their American-born children? What are some of the cultural gaps that exist between the children of immigrants and their more acculturated friends?

Note: The issue of body image is also addressed by the introductory one-page comic for this section of the book, written and drawn by Kripa Joshi.