Superb. A rigorous, vulnerable book on a subject that is too often neglected.

SEEK YOU

A JOURNEY THROUGH AMERICAN LONELINESS

An exploration of loneliness, the troubling ways we’ve studied it, and the subtle ways we strain to avoid it.

Radtke’s second graphic memoir feels almost custom-made for the social-distancing era: She explores our need for connection and touch (“skin hunger” is the psychological term) and the negative social and personal effects of isolation. But the book is a much broader and deeply affecting study of loneliness, uncovering the host of ways our craving for community manifests itself in ways that are sometimes quirky and sometimes terrifying. Laugh tracks on sitcoms, for instance, offer a sense of communal feeling within a cold medium; so, too, did the Web 1.0 sites and chatrooms Radtke obsessed over, where strangers laid out their private thoughts and fears. The anxiety runs deep: We crave reports of mass shooters that say the perpetrator was a loner because it satisfies our need to not associate with them. “The collective branding of mass killers is a clumsy act of self-preservation,” she writes. In clean, graceful renderings and a constricted color palette, Radtke expresses her own experiences with loneliness, as a child and in relationships, and gets people to open up about theirs. Along the way, she discovered unusual approaches to combatting loneliness—e.g., a hotline that elderly people can call to have someone to talk to. The author also writes about the cruel experiments psychologist Harry Harlow conducted on monkeys in the 1950s to debunk the belief that children shouldn’t be emotionally coddled. Harlow himself lived a troubled, isolated life, and Radtke wonders if he projected his anxiety upon the animals he tormented in the name of science. If so, how much of our own fear of isolation do we project on the world? Throughout, Radtke is an engaging and thoughtful guide through our fear of being alone.

Superb. A rigorous, vulnerable book on a subject that is too often neglected.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4806-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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An accessible, informative journey through complex issues during turbulent times.

WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD

Immersion journalism in the form of a graphic narrative following a Syrian family on their immigration to America.

Originally published as a 22-part series in the New York Times that garnered a Pulitzer for editorial cartooning, the story of the Aldabaan family—first in exile in Jordan and then in New Haven, Connecticut—holds together well as a full-length book. Halpern and Sloan, who spent more than three years with the Aldabaans, movingly explore the family’s significant obstacles, paying special attention to teenage son Naji, whose desire for the ideal of the American dream was the strongest. While not minimizing the harshness of the repression that led them to journey to the U.S.—or the challenges they encountered after they arrived—the focus on the day-by-day adjustment of a typical teenager makes the narrative refreshingly tangible and free of political polemic. Still, the family arrived at New York’s JFK airport during extraordinarily political times: Nov. 8, 2016, the day that Donald Trump was elected. The plan had been for the entire extended family to move, but some had traveled while others awaited approval, a process that was hampered by Trump’s travel ban. The Aldabaans encountered the daunting odds that many immigrants face: find shelter and employment, become self-sustaining quickly, learn English, and adjust to a new culture and climate (Naji learned to shovel snow, which he had never seen). They also received anonymous death threats, and Naji wanted to buy a gun for protection. He asked himself, “Was this the great future you were talking about back in Jordan?” Yet with the assistance of selfless volunteers and a community of fellow immigrants, the Aldabaans persevered. The epilogue provides explanatory context and where-are-they-now accounts, and Sloan’s streamlined, uncluttered illustrations nicely complement the text, consistently emphasizing the humanity of each person.

An accessible, informative journey through complex issues during turbulent times.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-30559-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Subtle, provocative, and sharply drawn—a portrait of the perpetually dissatisfied artist.

THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE CARTOONIST

A lifelong obsession with comics results in less reward than the author and illustrator might once have thought possible.

In his latest book, Tomine, who has been successful by nearly any measure—his oeuvre includes many minicomics and books and several New Yorker covers—delivers an understated yet illuminating graphic memoir full of insights on the creative process and the struggles of defining “success” in the world of comics and graphic novels. Early on in the narrative, the author is something like a younger Rodney Dangerfield, frustrated by a lack of respect. Schoolmates taunted him, and even the acclaim he earned as a teenage prodigy—“the boy wonder of mini-comics”—was short-lived, crushed by a backlash review that dismissed him as a derivative “moron.” The rites of passage that seemed like markers of success—Comic-Con, book signings, tours, awards ceremonies—generally left Tomine feeling deflated and resentful. Instead of reveling in the acceptance he received from the New Yorker and elsewhere, the author dwelled on the slur of dismissal as a Japanese American that he received from one veteran artist. Throughout his narrative, Tomine expresses feelings of inferiority to the more celebrated Neil Gaiman and Daniel Clowes—though an epigram from the latter, on how being a famous cartoonist is “like being the most famous badminton player,” proves telling. Even marriage and fatherhood failed to resolve Tomine’s insecurities or anger issues, and readers will begin to suspect that what’s at issue isn’t the lonely profession the author has chosen but rather problems of self-acceptance. A medical scare provided a reckoning and a realization that his obsession had become his albatross and that he needed to put his life in perspective. Upon reaching this “turning point,” he heads back to the drawing board—hopefully, for many more years to come.

Subtle, provocative, and sharply drawn—a portrait of the perpetually dissatisfied artist.

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77046-395-0

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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