ABSTRACT

Drawing on David L. Eng and Shinhee Han’s theory of racial melancholia, this essay investigates interracial romantic relationships in the context of racial abjection and Asian American identity in Adrian Tomine’s graphic novel Shortcomings. The graphic novel depicts the two protagonists—Ben Tanaka and Miko Hayashi—as subjects of melancholia who attempt to engage in interracial relationships as a means of entering an imagined position in the white dominant American culture. However, Tomine understands the “shortcomings” of the Asian American-white romance by visually and verbally illustrating the legacy of racial, gender, and sexual power imbalances that have historically defined relationships between Asian and white Americans. Ben’s and Miko’s interracial relationships are rendered equally undesirable, for such relationships reveal the social basis of racial melancholia. To the extent that whiteness and racial melancholia permeate the interracial relationships in Shortcomings, Tomine shows that the egalitarian power of Alice’s queer romance may offer opportunities for countering racial melancholia not through assimilating into white dominant culture but through the erotically charged yearnings for communal relationships with other Asians.

KEYWORDS: racial melancholia, interracial romance, Asian American masculinity, self-Orientalism, graphic novels, Adrian Tomine, Shortcomings