Each volume presents a compelling and economical account of important personal relations, ambitions, and accomplishments. In Isadora, Jones creates fluid illustrations that match the theme of dance. In the economical style of graphics, each book gives the reader two choices: stop with this book (who needs five hundred more pages of exposition?), or go to a full-blown literary biography (I am going to put my feet up for the weekend and read).
Maus, Persepolis, and Fun Home are memoir. Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1987 (a trilogy) may be seen as the guy's side of the mirror created by Satrapi in Persepolis. Sattouf, the son of a French mother and a Syrian father, brings a satirist’s eye to the story of his childhood and youth in Syria and Libya. He casts himself as the naïve observer of his parents' 'mixed marriage,' cross-cultural differences, and deadly Libyan politics. His illustrations are devastating in their ability to convey the larger meaning and, especially, emotions of events. This should not come as a surprise to readers who know that Sattouf spent a decade working for the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo (whose offices were firebombed in 2011 and attacked by Islamist terrorists in 2015).
United States Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis along with writer Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell created a tour de force of history and memoir in the March trilogy. In these volumes Lewis narrates his recollections and analysis of the African-American civil rights struggle from the 1950s through the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act during the administration of President Lyndon Johnson.
Lewis joined civil rights the movement while a student and was tutored in non-violent activism. His commitment to non-violence as a philosophy and practice informs much of the trilogy. March is a gripping read — moving, poignant and, when describing violence against activists, horrifying. Nate Powell's graphics are central to the success of the trilogy. They match and extend the text, on the one hand conveying the collegiality found among the protesters and, on the other, the brutality of white supremacists and police.
If you know nothing about the African-American civil rights movement, March is a good place to start. And readers who think they know who was doing what when, and who did and did not step up to the plate in critical moments, will discover new information as Lewis speaks honestly about the behavior and decisions of power brokers within the movement, in southern government, and in Washington.
New Yorker artist Roz Chast was much loved by those who followed her work before she published Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT?: A Memoir. In this brilliant graphic Chast solidifies her reputation by demonstrating the range of her talents as an artist and teller of tales. Can't we talk is simultaneously a giddy and challenging walk through Chast's attempt, as an only child, to help and, ultimately, care for her elderly parents told with a novelist's pen and extraordinary, candid graphics. If Tennessee Williams, our great American expositor of domestic life, had thought to write a graphic novel, he would have wanted to write this one.
Scene One, Stage Left: Three people sit in a small apartment living room.
Chast: So … do you guys ever think about… THINGS?
Parents: What kind of things?
Chast: You know … THINGS. PLANS.
Chast: I have no idea what you guys WANT. Let's say something HAPPENED.
Parents: Heh heh — Good one —
Chast: Am I the only SANE PERSON HERE???
For readers: Can't we talk is a self-help guide for aging parents and for their grown children. It is a moving memoir, a primer on the possible and impossible, and a superb example of how graphic art, in the hands of genius, becomes unified with text.
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