A quiet powerhouse of a memoir.

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SPINNING

Graphic novelist Walden recounts her years coming-of-age as a competitive ice skater.

Tillie Walden knew she was gay since she was 5, which was also when she began ice skating. This memoir recounts the years from when she’s 11 to when she reaches her late teens, as her life marches on through fledgling romances, moving halfway across the country, bullying, and various traumas with skating as her only constant. Her story is largely insular, with her family only visible in the periphery, even with regard to her skating. Walden’s recollections tend to meander at times, with an almost stream-of-consciousness feel about them; her taciturn introspection mixed with adolescent ennui creates a subdued, yet graceful tone. For a young author (Walden is in her early 20s), she is remarkably adept at identifying the seminal moments of her life and evincing their impacts on her trajectory. Her two-toned art is lovely and spare, utilizing the occasional splash of an accenting color to heighten visual interest. She draws herself as a blonde, bespectacled, white girl, a depiction that brings Harriet Welsch to mind. Walden deems herself “a creator who is happy making a book without all the answers,” and while she may not solve any of life’s great conundrums, her offering is intimate and compelling.

A quiet powerhouse of a memoir. (Graphic memoir. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-772-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

THEY CALLED US ENEMY

A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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DRAGON HOOPS

The trials of a high school basketball team trying to clinch the state title and the graphic novelist chronicling them.

The Dragons, Bishop O’Dowd High School’s basketball team, have a promising lineup of players united by the same goal. Backed by Coach Lou Richie, an alumnus himself, this could be the season the Oakland, California, private Catholic school breaks their record. While Yang (Team Avatar Tales, 2019, etc.), a math teacher and former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, is not particularly sporty, he is intrigued by the potential of this story and decides to focus his next graphic novel on the team’s ninth bid for the state championship. Yang seamlessly blends a portrait of the Dragons with the international history of basketball while also tying in his own career arc as a graphic novelist as he tries to balance family, teaching, and comics. Some panels directly address the creative process, such as those depicting an interaction between Yang and a Punjabi student regarding the way small visual details cue ethnicity in different ways. This creative combination of memoir and reportage elicits questions of storytelling, memory, and creative liberty as well as addressing issues of equity and race. The full-color illustrations are varied in layout, effectively conveying intense emotion and heart-stopping action on the court. Yang is Chinese American, Richie is black, and there is significant diversity among the team members.

A winner. (notes, bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-079-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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