What is life like inside a modern residential psychiatric facility? Is it oversedated patients slumped over board games as depicted in 12 Monkeys? Or is it a place of simmering conflict and coercive control, à la One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest? Pam Pam Liu's graphic novel A Trip to the Asylum peels away the stereotypes to reveal the inner world of psychiatric patients and the painful realities each grapples with while undergoing in-patient treatment.
The story follows a new patient who enters residential care at the suggestion of his sister. With his hand bandaged, and clinging to the idea that “I'll be out of here before you know it,” he begins to adapt to his surroundings and get to know his fellow patients. He meets a middle-aged man so terrified of life he hopes to never leave the facility, a former entertainment reporter never stops mumbling celebrity gossip, and a teen who struggles with gender identity and social ostracization. Though they appear “crazy” at first glance, each harbors a secret trauma that drives their behaviors, including our reticent protagonist.
Ten years in the making, A Trip to the Asylum incorporates author Pam Pam Liu's personal experiences as well was extensive research into the literature of mental illness, including works such as Erving Goffman's Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates and Bessel van der Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. With its indy comic aesthetic, absurd humor, and fast pacing, A Trip to the Asylum delivers deep issues in an entertaining package, bringing mental illness out of the shadows and into the realm of relatable, everyday interactions.
who was sent to a psychiatric sanatorium by his older sister. He seems normal but shows propensity for violence whenever he gets irritated; he can’t remember his acts of violence and see himself as the victim. His family carelessly ate his best childhood friend -- a chick -- and laughed at him about it.
an opinionated elite who loves to mention her decent education level. She depreciates everything about the protagonist. She does not care and forgets every time she backs out or hurts others.
the child of the older sister who was once been assaulted by the protagonist. She tends to curb violence with violence and yearns for violence. She looks for powerful characters in books as her idols.
A patient in the psychiatric sanatorium who thought himself was Fei Yu-ching, a well-known singer. He is cowardly but meddlesome at the same time.