Sonny Liew is the author of The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye and the artist for the 2018 Fight Evil, Read Books T-shirt design.
Q: How do you think books and art can change the world?
A: Human beings are at heart storytelling animals — not just to each other but also to ourselves, with all kinds of narratives operating that help us negotiate the world around us. Books and art play a big role in helping shape those narratives, and while some can attempt to persuade us to be Machiavellian or Ayn Randian, others can give us hope in kindness and generosity.
Q: How have books and art changed your life?
A: I was lucky enough to be born at a time and place where there were always books around me — from my grandfather’s collection in his library, to the books my mom and dad would get for my sister and me… I can scarcely imagine a world without books — that would be like that scene in that classic Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last,” where the protagonist, the lone survivor of an atomic war, is emotionally shattered when he accidentally shatters his glasses, leaving him unable to read the books around him.
There were also the tricky years of adolescent anxieties — I remember Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes and books by Bertrand Russell I found in the school library being life savers, voices from far away appearing on the pages of books, telling me the world might be peaceable, after all.
Q: What does Fight Evil, Read Books mean to you?
A: It was an honor to be able to contribute some artwork for the T-shirts for the FERB campaign — I think the message is an important one — for all of us to try to break out of our bubbles, hopefully finding greater empathy and understanding through reading, dialogue, and funny pictures.