A graphic biography of noted sex expert Dr. Ruth.
Dr. Ruth Westheimer was born in Germany in 1928 as Karola Ruth Siegel. Nowadays, the diminutive, humorous TV and radio personality is best known for dispensing practical information about relationships and human sexuality. Westheimer collaborates with Lehu on this unusual graphic novel, which mixes a fictional narrative with memoir. The fictional Dr. Ruth is on an outing with her teenage grandchildren at an amusement park, rendered in full color in a cartoon style reminiscent of juvenile government information brochures of the 1960s. A cheerful Dr. Ruth, clad in a bright pink blazer, walks through a scary haunted house, tries the games on the midway, goes on rides, and plays miniature golf. Each of these activities prompts Dr. Ruth to share a sometimes-harrowing story of her past: of growing up in Nazi Germany, as a refugee child in Switzerland, as a teenage kibbutznik in Palestine just before Israel’s statehood, and as an immigrant to the United States, where she returns to school and earns her master’s degree and doctorate. Simmons illustrates the memoir segments in sepia tones with washes of gray and lavender; it’s almost as if the past is a black-and-white movie in contrast to the colorful present. The work for which the audience’s caregivers will know Dr. Ruth goes largely unmentioned, and the uneasy juxtaposition of the amusement-park frame with Dr. Ruth’s early years undercuts the recounting of events that shaped her.
Dr. Ruth’s life story is one of survival and persistence and deserves a better telling than this. (timeline, discussion questions) (Graphic memoir. 7-10)