In this continuation of Say’s graphic memoir, Drawing from Memory (2011), he travels to the United States and receives a decidedly mixed welcome.
Arriving in southern California in 1953, 15-year-old Allen first settles in a military academy but is soon asked to leave because his sponsor comes to believe that he won’t be (as Say’s own openly hostile father puts it) “a wholesome American.” Never quite fitting in, he goes on to acquire an apartment and a job, take art classes, and, after high school graduation, set off in relief for San Francisco. “I will never,” he concludes emphatically, “come back.” Though his personal voice, his gratitude for the support he does receive, and occasional flashes of rueful humor are evident enough, overall his sense of isolation from people and events around him colors his entire experience. The many quick sketches, caricatures, practice pieces, and even the relatively finished scenes of significant incidents or encounters with which his account is interspersed, though, add life and feeling in abundance to the often spare narrative. Moreover, all along the way, his determination to become a cartoonist never fades, and at low moments Kyusuke, the free-spirited alter ego created for him back in Japan by his mentor and sensei, Noro Shinpei, pops into view to remind him that it’s all an adventure.
This small but firm step on an artist’s journey is both inspiration to his fellows and an informative window into a particular slice of the nation’s history. (afterword, with photos) (Graphic memoir. 10 & up)