The New Yorker’s new cover has been described as a “gut-wrenching” and “heartbreaking” commentary on the rise of anti-Asian violence in the United States.
Artist R. Kikuo Johnson’s illustration for the magazine’s April 5 edition — titled “Delayed” — shows a woman and a young girl holding hands on a subway platform, their body language appearing to indicate a sense of unease.
“The position of the mother’s feet and eyebrows was what required the most finessing,” Johnson said in an interview with the publication about his artwork. “I wanted a gesture that was somewhere between vigilant and fearful.”
Johnson said he prepared for the assignment “by revisiting news coverage of anti-Asian hate crimes committed during the pandemic.”
“As I absorbed one account after another, they became increasingly difficult to read. So many mothers and grandmothers have been targeted,” he said. “I imagined my own mom in that situation. I thought about my grandma and my aunt, who have been among my greatest sources of support. The mother in the drawing is made up of all these women.”
In an Instagram post, Johnson wrote that he was “humbled by the opportunity” to speak out against anti-Asian violence.
“For every emotion I felt last week, I tried a different approach to this cover ranging from angry calls to action to celebrations of pride,” he said. “In the end, my narrow skillset is one of a storyteller, and out of all the sketches, this image seemed to best capture the moment.”
Fans on Twitter hailed his art.
“The way R. Kikuo Johnson captures this moment and simultaneously breaks my heart,” author Jenny Han tweeted.
Many others agreed: