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Less Desolate


Haiku by Shin Yu Pai & Comics by Justin Rueff Publication Date: November 11, 2023 Multidisciplinary artists Shin Yu Pai and Justin Rueff have created Less Desolate, a stunning haiku comics book exploring Pacific Northwest and pandemic life. Less Desolate represents an hybrid literary artform that brings together the lyricism and associative qualities of poetry, while also…


About the Book

Multidisciplinary artists Shin Yu Pai and Justin Rueff have created Less Desolate, a stunning haiku comics book exploring Pacific Northwest and pandemic life. Less Desolate represents an hybrid literary artform that brings together the lyricism and associative qualities of poetry, while also drawing from the craft of sequential art. Within its pages, Pai and Rueff uncover the quiet moments of calm that anchor us within urban surroundings, while also contemplating climate change, poverty, homelessness, loneliness, parenting and mental health during isolation and confinement.

Less Desolate includes over 108 haiku comics panels within a hardbound cover, an introduction from comics artist David Lasky, and an author and artist interview between Shin Yu and Justin.

Less Desolate is also an important addition to the canon of Asian American literature rooted in the Pacific Northwest. It is one of the first of the interdisciplinary form of haiku comics in the U.S. Themes in the collection are wide-ranging, from climate change, civil unrest, protest, and activism to urban poverty, crime, homelessness, and life during the COVID-19 confinement.

Did you know: Less Desolate was fully funded via Kickstarter and a grant from the Tacoma Arts Commission!

ISBN: 979-8-9873352-2-2
Page Count: 224
Dimensions: 6″ tall x 8.5″ wide
Publisher: Blue Cactus Press
Printer: Gray Dog Press

Publication Date: Nov 11, 2023

Praise for Less Desolate: Haiku Comics

Less Desolate is a lovely time capsule of the moments of anxiety, joy, loneliness, anger, and togetherness that COVID brought us, particularly in the Asian American community. With Seattle as a backdrop, many pages felt achingly familiar.” — Kiku Hughes, author of Displacement

Less Desolate is a book of presence, asking readers to breathe into the moments of quiet grace that exist despite the wounds of our world. Pai’s haikus, paired with Rueff’s illustrations, capture the dissonance of living within a city, a pandemic, and a fractured social fabric—where the truly courageous choice is to fully be where you are, and find beauty where you stand.” — Tessa Hulls, comics artist and poet

“A clarifying gift for—and of—our pandemic time, Less Desolate merges Shin Yu Pai’s poignant, tender, witty haiku with the linear simplicity of Justin Rueff’s comics. Each page urges us to slow down, to take stock, to break down moments into even smaller moments. Frame by frame, these pages help give us the pauses that we need right now.” — Tamiko Nimura, author of We Hereby Refuse

“When trying to make sense of new realities, sometimes it takes more than words. In Less Desolate, Shin Yu Pai documents her explorations, thoughts, and memories in a time of isolation, boredom, anxiety, and relentless unknowing. With artwork by Justin Rueff, the illustrations in Less Desolate make these experiences palpable, from a pluck of graying hair to heart pangs felt while looking out a bus window to see blood on the street.” — Kelly Froh, Comic artist & Short Run Comix & Arts festival director

“Shin Yu Pai and Justin Rueff’s collection of graphic poetry comes across as a book full of quiet charm and likeable quirks that gains in force and becomes a book to reckon with. Less Desolate is full of troubling juxtapositions, ironic incongruities, and even downright contradictions—all a testament to the chaos of feelings we live with and can’t reconcile. Insecurities, self-deceptions, and tragedy are acknowledged, but hope is given its due—a tentative, occasionally defiant, and possibly fleeting hope. Politics isn’t given a pass, either, and its commentary here proves that political intelligence doesn’t have to devolve into a noisy and noisome world of shrieking ideologies. Rueff’s ethereal but assured line and Pai’s understated poetic inflections perfectly complement each other. The appropriately titled Less Desolate reminds us how important it is to stay alert to the rhythms of our lives.” — Gary Groth, publisher of Fantagraphics

“An evocative and raw reflection on identity, memory, and the impacts of isolation, Less Desolate is a stunning work that combines the best in poetry and sequential art. Rueff’s expressive art style adds depth and texture to every page, a perfect complement to Pai’s powerful and thought-provoking poetry. Together, they create a moving reminder that moments of beauty and art can emerge from even the darkest of times. An essential addition to the Pacific Northwest reader’s bookshelf, Less Desolate sets a high standard for future works in the interdisciplinary haiku comics genre and will leave an impression long after the final page is turned.” — Susanna Ryan, author of Seattle Walk Report: An Illustrated Walking Tour through 23 Seattle Neighborhoods and Secret Seattle: An Illustrated Guide to the City’s Offbeat and Overlooked History

“Each illustrated haiku is a unique vignette from Pai’s world, ranging from beautifully mundane, to globally monumental. A mix of life’s daily blessings and concerns, complemented by the gestural, lively lines of Rueff’s sequential art.’’ — Abrian Curington, visual storyteller and cartographer

“Shin Yu Pai’s spare poetry in combination with Justin Rueff’s fluid images are fleeting as thoughts in real time, yet also hyper specific to a particular time, a particular place, a particular emotion. These gentle fragments encapsulate living through the uncertainties brought on by a pandemic, social unrest, and climate change. In the author’s words, they offer “proof that we were there.” — Meredith Li-Vollmer, Seattle comics artist

About the Author & Illustrator

Shin Yu Pai is the Civic Poet of The City of Seattle. She is the author of Haiku Not Bombs (Booklyn, 2008) and 10 other books of poetry, including most recently Virga (Empty Bowl, 2021). In 2020, Entre Rios Books published Ensō, a 20-year survey of Shin Yu’s practice across poetry, personal essay, photography, performance, installation, and public art. For more info, visit http://shinyupai.com.


Justin Rueff is an artist, designer and educator. He works as a sign painter, commercial artist and comic book creator. He is the creator of Brother Crow comics and the upcoming romance title, Heroes & Lovers. You can see more of Justin’s work on his Instagram: @justinrueff or at his website at http://www.justinrueff.com.

Additional information

Weight 1 lbs
Dimensions 6 × 8.5 in

Paperback, eBook