El Deafo by Cece Bell

When I looked into reading this book, I asked one of my library kids about it.  He’s review was, “It’s kind of sad but really good.”  This is accurate.  I will say that it wasn’t nearly as sad as I expected it to be.  I was saddest in the first half.

Cece get meningitis when she is little and it causes her to lose her hearing.  Cece does a year in a school for the deaf but then her family moves to a smaller town and she goes to the local elementary.  In order to hear the teacher, she must wear a phonic ear which is like a large pack with earbuds on it.  The teacher wears a microphone.  Cece is embarrassed of her phonic ear and worries that all of the other kids are looking at her but soon she discovers that she has *magic* powers.  Not only can she hear her teacher in the classroom, but she can also hear her when she’s in the teacher’s lounge and even going pee.

This is really the story of Cece coming to terms with who she is.  She doesn’t want people to look at her or notice that she is different and children are children.  One girl realizes that she can push Cece around because she wants to be liked so badly.  Another girl constantly refers to her as her “deaf friend.”  Cece learns to stand up for herself and discovers who is a real friend.

This would be a great read for people who liked Raina Telgemeier’s Smile.  It has that same kind of feeling about it and tells the author’s personal experience in a way that is honest, funny, and a little heart warming.

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Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

This was the second attempt that I made to pick up Chast’s graphic memoir about dealing with her parents aging and dying.  The first time I read one page and put it back because I was feeling blue and didn’t want to read something depressing.  This time my anxiety about death is high and I forced myself into reading it anyway.  It was worth it.  The subject matter here is heavy and hard but Chast does a great job telling her story and I only almost cried once just because reading it made me miss my father.

Chast was the third wheel growing up.  Her mother and father were everything to each other.  They met when they were children and neither of them ever even dated anyone else.  Her mother was a bullheaded woman, someone who always needed to be right and had a temper too.  Her father always insisted “mother knows best” and spent much of his time worrying.  As they grew older, both of them lived into their 90’s, they never talked about making any plans.  Chast’s mother is prone to telling stories about other people dying but she doesn’t want to think about her own mortality or the inevitable move to elder care until she gets sick and everything starts to fall apart.

Chast handles the subject matter honestly.  She talks about her relationships with her parents, how she was never close to her mother and always felt more like her father’s child.  She talks about the legalities and financials of the situation.  She talks about cleaning out her parents’ apartment.  Then she talks about their slow decline which suddenly speeds up.

It feels strange to say that I enjoyed this book but I did.  Chast’s stories about her parents could be amusing or heartbreaking or frustrating but it made good content and I could tell that it came from the heart.

The Customer is Always Wrong- Mimi Pond

I had some complaints about the first volume, Over Easy, but, honestly, other than the color of the print I can’t remember them.  Because the sequel, which I requested as soon as I realized that it existed, blew me away.  Seriously.

I have read a few graphic novels this year that have torn my heart out and this was one of them.

Madge continues working as a waitress at the Imperial Cafe where she is surrounded by a colorful cast of characters.  It’s the 70’s in Oakland and the world is changing.  Madge’s coworkers get into all kinds of trouble, drugs and gangs and missing daughters who have run off with dangerous boyfriends.  Madge is trying to save up enough money to move to New York and become a career cartoonist and more and more she can see the gap between herself and her friends.  This is a book about letting go and moving on but it is also bittersweet with love and nostalgia.

This is the kind of writing that sucks you right into the page.  I was there.  I was at the wild party and I was on the dangerous trip to the bad side of town.  I was invested in everyone, enough to cry a couple of times.  This one got 5 stars, because when it was done I shut the book and cried a little more.

Graphic Friday: Over Easy by Mimi Pond

I learned something from my graphic novel this week.  I learned about the Plymouth Mod Tops.  Our main character, whose waitress name is Madge, buys one as her first car.  1969 Plymouth Satellite Mod Top.  This sent me down a rabbit hole and I’m still pretty excited about it.  They’re a rarity, which is too bad because I pretty much NEED one now.

I was doubtful when I started this book.  It was bigger than I was expecting and had a lot more words that I was expecting and was printed in a greenish ink that made it hard to read in bed.  But I powered through and I was glad that I did.  Madge, who starts out as Margaret, is an art student but she is denied financial aid for her final year of college and asks for a job at a diner that she stumbled upon on a whim.  Lazlo, the manager, asks for a joke and she tells him one just like that she becomes a dish washer.

It’s the late 1970’s.  The hippies are dying out and punk rock is being born.  The restaurant is ripe with the usual dramas: hook ups and break ups.  There are drugs and drinking, drag queens and lesbians.  It’s basically the movie Waiting moved back a few decades.  It was good.  I found myself chuckling and laughing and wanting to wear vintage dresses listen to my punk albums.  Plus, I still really need a Mod Top.

Graphic Friday: Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

That thing where you sneak in some reading at work but it’s a big mistake because the book you’re reading punches you in the gut and then you have to try not to cry in front of your coworkers.

Yeah, that was this book.

This is Clementine’s story but we know from the beginning that she is dead.  It is told through her journal, which has been left to her girlfriend.  Clementine was with her boyfriend the first time she saw Emma.  They passed each other in the street and Clementine couldn’t look away.  She is haunted with vivid, intimate dreams of this girl with blue hair.  Confused, she eventually breaks up with her boyfriend and begins trying to figure out “what is wrong with her.”  Luckily, she has a gay friend, Valentin, to help her on the way.  It’s Valentin who takes her to the gay car where she next sees Emma and then their relationship begins to unfold.

It’s not perfect, of course.  It’s all difficult.  Clementine is still just a teenager and she has to deal with high school and prejudiced friends and family.  She has a lot of maturing to do, but so does Emma.

This was perhaps one of the most heart-wrenchingly romantic comics that I have ever read.  It was beautiful and it seriously made me cry.  Five stars.

Graphic Friday: The Graphic Canon, vol 1

Hey, hey, hey!  We still do Graphic Friday around here!  I finished one this week and I am psyched to be back on track-kind of.

The Graphic Canon, vol 1 runs from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Dangerous Liasonsi and is comprised of a number of short comics from different artists adapting classics of literature into ye olde sequential art.  On a whole, I loved it, though I am willing to admit that there were some misses for me.  Most of the works were treated with respect but sometimes I felt as if the artists were poking fun at other cultures.  I think that out of all of the comics, I skipped maybe three.  For instance, I had a hard time reading Lysistrata just because the art style jumbled my brain.  But it was also really cool to see Revelations done in comic form.  There were a number of stories that left me awestruck because they were just so well done, things of beauty.

This was a hella big book, 500 pages and large.  If you intend to read it, I would suggest picking your way through it slowly, not carrying it to and from work with you, and not holding it while you read.

A short break, and then I’ll be onto volume 2!

Graphic Friday- Marbles by Ellen Forney

Hey, hey!  It’s Graphic Friday and for the first time in a couple of weeks, I have a review for you.

This is another title that languished on my TBR list since it was published in 2012.  If I’m being completely honest, I almost skipped this one.  There were a couple of reasons.  Something about the contrast of the black and white illustrations bothered me.  Was it that there seemed to be too much black?  Was it the sometimes crowded frames?  Also, I hate to admit it, it seemed like there were Too Many Words.  (At the time, I was working on a big reading project and looking forward to a comic as a bit of a rest and a quick read.)  “Do I really want to read a graphic novel about bipolar disorder?”  I asked myself.

The answer is that I did want to read a comic about bipolar disorder and you may want to, too.

I’m sure that most of us have some kind of experience with bipolar disorder, either because of ourselves or our friends or our family.  It feels surprisingly common sometimes.  And though I have never taken to time to seek a diagnosis or a clean bill of mental health, my own life has been defined by UP moods and DOWN moods.  What I found surprising about Forney’s autobiographical book is how acutely she described things that I personally experienced and how well she recorded thoughts that seemed so personal to me.

When Forney was about to turn thirty, she received her diagnosis.  Manic at the time, she planned an extravagant event to celebrate her birthday.  Performers, artists, costumes, DJ’s.  The only person who recognized the pattern was her mother.  Forney’s manias make her loud and outgoing, overly sexual and easily distracted, a little too likely to cross lines and push people out of her life by just being overbearing.  When she is manic, she tells herself that she can prepare herself for the depression.  “Manic me will take care of depressed me,” she says.  Only, when she is manic she forgets just how low her lows are.

This is the story of Forney coming to terms with her diagnosis.  It’s about learning to monitor herself and finding the right combination of medications.  But it’s also about the big question:  How do bipolar disorder and creativity fit together and what effect does medication have on the two?