The graphic novel section of my local library is tiny, just one shelf. As a result, I notice every new title that comes in, and I check every one of them out. Because I adore a good graphic novel! And I’m sort of starved for them, I guess, so when I saw three new titles last week, I grabbed them up without hesitation, even though two were non-fiction—not my usual thing—and the first, Stitches: a Memoir, by David Small, looked at bit too downer for me. But this is why reading outside your genre can be so enlightening. THIS BOOK IS FANTASTIC. I want everyone to read it. Seriously, you should totally read this book!
Stitches is tragicomedy that moved me to tears more than once about a boy growing up in—and escaping from—a silent, cold family, and the wounds we bring out of such experiences. It’s also about voice, expression, and truth. All of which doesn’t really convey why you should read it, and honestly, I probably wouldn’t be attracted if I knew nothing about it but that—but seriously, this story is so worth your time. It is sharp, funny, painful, but in the end hopeful—and you know me, I won’t recommend a book with a sad ending, what can I say, I’m weak like that. But I’ve thought about this story and David’s experiences many times since finishing it. I find I am changed by it. Which if pretty much how I define a great piece of work.
So, I gave it to Paul, who hardly ever reads this sort of thing. Actually, I left it propped open to page one in front of his coffee mug, like a trap he would never see coming, and he inhaled it in about an hour over breakfast. The story and the art draws you in that much, even more, perhaps, if you are unsuspecting. The art is fantastic, at times loose, funny, and expressive, at other times cuttingly precise, with occasional spots of realism (especially in faces) that shock with their intensity. The writing is strong, too. The combination is sneaky its ability to affect.
I’m not giving any details because I went in knowing nothing about it, and the reveals were more potent as a result. I don’t want to mess that up for you because you should totally read this book. Did I mention that this is a great book and everyone should go read it? Don’t hesitate. Go. Read. Highly recommended.
The second book in the stack, is one I totally thought I would love: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol. Unlike Stitches, this one appeared to be totally up my alley, a ghost story, blurbed on the cover by Neil Gaiman as “A Masterpiece.” I mean, I snapped that off the shelf like it was chocolate. A masterpiece Russian ghost story graphic novel with a girl protagonist? I am going to love this!
But I didn’t. I mean, it was okay. It’s a case of the blurb backfiring, I think, as I went in so stoked to read a masterpiece, that I was disappointed to find a perfectly serviceable story about a girl who befriends a ghost who is not all she appears to be. If I had gone in cold, the way I did with Stitches, would I have been more entertained? Possibly. The book does have some chewy things to say about being an immigrant, about identity and fitting in and Americanizing one’s self, and about what we’ll do to get what we want and to be liked. Maybe these just aren’t my issues any more, maybe the story would be more moving to someone younger. I liked it. It didn’t knock my socks off. I wanted to have my socks knocked off. Oh well.
Finally, the last of my library-score, was a bit of investigative reporting in the form of a graphic novel, something I had never seen done before, but I liked it, it worked. A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge is a graphic novel—actually, do you call it a graphic novel when it isn’t a novel, when it isn’t a long-form story? Hmm. Anyway, A.D. is kind of a documentary in comic form about a half-dozen people from just before hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans to several years later. The people are of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds and they make different choices, like riding the storm out, vs evacuating (and then returning), vs taking shelter in the city, etc. The comic follows each, jumping from story strand to strand, as the storm hits, then recedes, and the fall out afterwards. This prismatic approach gives a layered look at what happened, how it played out, and especially how it affected people. For example, that one storm sometimes split up families for years. Some people lost everything they owned. Some became heroes. Some became terribly depressed and unable to move ahead. The emotional impact, the financial impact, not to mention the way aid was totally botched by the government, all is touched on. It’s a pretty amazing telling.
And I was engrossed. Growing up on the coast of North Carolina, plus spending a big chunk of my childhood in Hawaii, I’ve lived through my share of hurricanes. But I’ve never seen anything like Katrina and how it changed New Orleans (and I hope I never do). A.D. didn’t have the emotional impact that Stitches had, but it’s unfair to compare it to that, just because I checked it out of the library on the same day, isn’t it? This was a fascinating book that told many stories (based on real people), and I’m glad I read it. Recommended.
Aren’t libraries terrific? They’re my church, I think.
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Children of the Fallen, now available on Amazon.
The haunted and talented children of the glorious and terrifying...
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coming next: The Lucidity EffectLucidity is now with the editor, woo hoo!
today's yoga practice
upcoming book releases
a few greatest hits
- the yip-yips do not cause childhood obesity
- the solstice from inside a sundial
- yurts: the downside
- triple chocolate pudding goop, or, this way lies madness
- the power of mom’s day can melt even the most bitter of hearts, not that my heart is bitter, but it has gotten a bit crusty around the edges
- recycling other people's junk
- writing without pencil sharpening
- butterfly house
- the TOOL shed
- lucille ball moment
- the incredible hulk invades the yurt
- cool felt picture fun for kiddos
- the emotional insanity of writing
- diggers watch tv, too
- crafts for karma
- going all erin brockovich on your ass
- bad things come in threes. or fours. (or maybe fives?)
- the source of my power
- the 13 year visitation of the demon red-eyed cicada
- spike and buffy got screwed--now with proof! (part 1)
- "Dusi's Wings" April, 2003. . . . "One thing fantasy can do for us is to give shape to the mysterious in the world; another is to make emotional yearning concrete. The early sections of "Dusi's Wings" do just that...there was a strong grasping towards the spiritual in fantasy here that was very promising, and I look forward to reading more by Lassiter." --review, Tangent Online.
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