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A vital, emotionally immersive self-portrait.

The animated evolution of a queer boy from his strict religious upbringing to a liberated adolescence.

Tokyo-based couple Mann and Gatts integrate their illustrative and authorial talents in this debut graphic memoir vividly detailing Mann’s coming-of-age while cloaking his burgeoning homosexual feelings. The author earnestly portrays his Orthodox Jewish indoctrination and his family’s adherence to doctrine; he grew up in an environment in which everything consumed or acted upon had a pious blessing and kosher-strict rules. Throughout his childhood, his devout parents, despite the “odd gaps” in their own religious upbringings, corrected any kind of deviation from their insular expectations. These divergences included Mann’s simmering boyhood crushes on his male classmates, but the consensus between friends, teachers, and parents was to abandon these feelings because homosexuality was considered a religious “abomination.” Eventually, Mann came to the mature realization that in order to be happy and find a boyfriend, he would need to reject Orthodox teachings and live life on his own terms. But that meant keeping his feelings closeted, and he had to hide his feelings and actions from his family and friends. When he did eventually come out, no one understood or accepted it, and they insisted on interventions. The author recounts a boyhood incident involving his father’s indifference to an accidental near-drowning, which taught him that “trusting my parents could be dangerous.” This sentiment returned when he came out to his parents in early adolescence. When Mann finds love in the memoir’s final pages, it’s a well-deserved, significant moment. Awash in dark blue and brown hues, the illustrations are comprised of crisply rendered line drawings made more distinctive with effectively detailed coloration. Both Mann and Gatts contribute to vividly drawn pages of personal history elaborating on Mann’s journey toward the embracement of his queer identity.

A vital, emotionally immersive self-portrait.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781951491277

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Street Noise Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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

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. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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