Cites & Bytes @ Bailey

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Recently Read...

Uh-oh! The librarians are reading comic books! Three graphic novels (a new interest inspired by a workshop at the Virginia Hamilton festival and my brother-in-law who writes his own) ...

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. An excellent and thoughtful graphic novel/autobiography, Fun Home refers to the funeral home/residence of the author's childhood. The narrative moves back and forth in time but never strays far from the author's relationship with her father. I'm not sure how to describe the "plot" without compiling a laundry list of sexual preferences and although this is central to Bechdel's story, the book is much more than its lesbian coming-of-age in a dysfunctional family scenario. There seems to be something very direct and powerful about graphic novels that really seem to engage and intensify the reader reaction or interaction. The visual aspect is a sort of shorthand to a more complex understanding. Or maybe that's just me... but if you are curious about graphic novels, this would be an excellent read. This book is one of the NYT Notable Books in the Reading Room.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi. The presenter at the graphic novel workshop talked about one of the illustrations in Persepolis... that of the little Iranian girls being issued their veils for the first time and running around the playground using them as capes and toys, a charming depiction of a (to feminist eyes) sinister event. Her discussion and the chance to read a different point-of-view made me seek out these two autobiographical graphic novels. The author relates her childhood after the overthrow of the Shah, during the Islamic Revolution and the subsequent war with Iraq. I found it fascinating to see these world events through the eyes of an Iranian child, to discover the perspective of intellectual Iranians who questioned authority, and to appreciate the very human, lively personality of the rebellious narrator. Satrapi's parents send her to school in Vienna to protect her from the religious police but freedom proves to be difficult also. Persepolis 2 portrays the misery Satrapi experiences on her own, romantic disappointment, even temporary homelessness, before she returns home as a university student. The steady support of her parents' love and her affection for her country are obvious throughout. These were just great, really engrossing ... the character portrayals were also very satisfying... especially her feisty grandmother whose plain spoken wisdom transcended regime change.


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