memoir

Graphic Novel/Illustrated Memoir Review: A Fire Story

This is similar to The Best We Could Do in that it is both a series of comics and a memoir. It’s the story of the Californian fire, and how it affected Brian Fies and his wife’s lives.

Fies begins by illustrating how the couple awoke on the night of the fire, and how they began to frantically yet methodically pack up their belongings. He details the escape, the bewilderment they felt and the huge sense of loss. Later, he really emphasises how much a person grieves for the loss of their home and belongings. It’s not the value that’s important, it’s the memories.

Throughout the book there are also several other people’s experiences. Some were also in their home at the time of the fire, while others were on holiday abroad, watching the events unfold through social media. All of these accounts had one particular thing in common: they all mention how they did not expect to be gone from their homes forever. They thought they would be able to return soon, and did not plan on leaving everything behind for the final time.

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

This was a fantastic book. Fies included little comics illustrating “a day in the life” after the fire, where the little, seemingly insignificant things reminded them of their loss. He also follows up with the process of reconstructing their house – and outlines some of the difficulties they never expected to face.

The art was lovely, with enough detail to clearly illustrate the events. The dialogue was perfect and sounded completely authentic, and expressed the emotions well. 5 stars.

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Book Review: Alice in The Looking Glass – A Mother and Daughter’s Experience of Anorexia

I’m probably more obsessed with ED books than is healthy, but it’s so reassuring to read other people’s experiences that are similar to my own. This book was absolutely fantastic – not only did it help me see that I’m not alone or abnormal, but I was also able to read a mother’s point of view on the experience. I understand now how awful it must have been for my own mother during my inpatient hospital stay and the initial battle of getting a diagnosis.
I found it interesting that they gave Jo (the mother)’s perspective first, instead of Alice herself. We learn about what she witnesses before we find out exactly what Alice was actually thinking and feeling.

They don’t include weights or numbers in this, which is tremendously helpful. Like Jo says, this is a competitive illness, and even parents seem to want to compete in having the “most poorly” child. But it’s so triggering for other people to read about how much weight someone lost, and it’s not really relevant. Weight loss is just a side affect of the illness, and not the main issue itself.

The reality is addressed so honestly in this book, all the feelings and experiences that we may be ashamed to admit are written in black and white. It made me feel a lot less guilty about things that I’ve felt, knowing other people have felt the same way, too. And the recovery aspect was not unrealistically easy or happy; Alice is not completely recovered even at the end of the book, but is managing her illness. That is how most of us will live for a long time, if not for the rest of our lives. But Alice expresses how she is so much happier “managing” her anorexia than she was when she was suffering years ago. It gives hope – even if you don’t fully recover, life can be good. 

I really loved this book. I’d urge anyone with a loved one who is suffering from an eating disorder (or has one themselves) to read this, as it would really help seeing both perspectives on the journey. 5 stars.

Graphic Novel Review: The Best We Could Do

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

This isn’t really a graphic novel, but kind of an illustrated memoir. It is not a fictional story with magic or monsters; instead, it discusses so many different aspects of life, growing up in different places during different times, and being a family.

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The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui – eBook (Review Copy), 330 pages – Published March 7th 2017 by Abrams

The events are not recollected chronologically, jumping from the birth of the author’s child back to the childhood of each of her parents, and then all the way back through to the present. There are dates and locations noted throughout, but I did get a tiny bit lost on occasion. (If I’m honest, though, I didn’t actually read the date on half the pages so it’s kinda my own fault.)

 

There are several key themes and events in this novel. One huge factor is war; how it affected the family and their life together. There’s also a lot about what it means to be family, what motherhood is and what childhood is, and also the loss of a loved one. Another massively important theme is immigration; Bui describes being a refugee, illegally sailing away from Vietnam after they surrendered, and trying to build a life as a family in a whole new country. So many people are ignorant of these issues and hardships, not realising how much some families go through just to taste happiness.

The colour scheme is rather clear – oranges and blues, mostly. It has a very watercolour-y effect, giving a sense of remembrance and recollection of the past. The art is really lovely in this – I feel it portrays the story fantastically, and is just beautiful to look at on its own.

I found it really interesting how Thi Bui focused so much on the lives of her parents before they met, emphasising how even parents are people with their own lives and pasts and problems. As she becomes a parent herself, she realises how her mother must have felt for all these years.

As someone with a pretty “boring” life, I was also really intrigued by the journey everyone in this book made. The migration to America, trying to build a life and earn money and keep safe – it was a pretty emotional journey! But Bui never dwells on these negatives, never moans or wishes for change. She just says everything as it is, which I really admire.

This is a really interesting read for anyone who likes history, learning about different cultures, or just wants to appreciate their family more. It discusses some huge issues – miscarriage, infant fatalities, immigration, war – that a lot of people could benefit from reading about. And the art is wonderful! 4 stars for this novel.

If you’re interested in this book, it’s available now on Amazon.

 

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Book Review: Breakfast with Tiffany

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Breakfast With Tiffany: An Uncle’s Memoir by Edwin John Wintle – Paperback, 310 pages – Published May 1st 2006 by Pocket Books

My teacher gave me a small stack of books to read upon hearing how much I love reading, and claimed that this was her all-time favourite. Honestly, the title is what really appealed to me – clearly, it wasn’t anything to do with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I appreciated the reference.

This novel, this memoir, is a truthful, brutally honest book about life. I can’t say I know what it’s like to be in the author’s place – I’m not a man, I’m not gay, I am not the guardian of my niece and I don’t even live in America – but the little things are just so real.

Tiffany’s home life isn’t great, and one day her uncle volunteers to take her in. Never did he anticipate so much drama and pain from such a small girl. She’s thirteen when she first moves in with her Uncle Eddy, and despite being a nice girl she is known to hang around with the wrong crowd. No matter how hard he tries, Eddy cannot prevent her from finding similar friends at her new school.

The pair really go through their ups and downs, and Ed himself talks a lot about personal thoughts and issues. He’d tested HIV-positive many years ago, and was also an unsuccessful actor. He broke up with his boyfriend relatively recently, and suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. Basically, life just has not turned out the way he’d planned.

Living with a teenager teaches him a lot of things. He is reminded of his own youth, and has to get on with his life all while keeping Tiffany going too. It’s not easy. Things do get rough, and he does find himself wondering why he ever got himself into this. But in the end their relationship is good, and they have a lot of fun together.

I did find this book great. It has hints of humour, conveys the bitter truth, and even gave me a taste of what it’s like to be a guardian of a teenage girl. There are definitely references I would have appreciated more had I been older than sixteen, and many of Ed’s problems, thoughts or situations may have been more interesting or important to an older generation.

That being said, I actually kind of loved this book. It isn’t quite in my favourites – but who knows, maybe in thirty years time it will be. I think I can easily give Breakfast with Tiffany: An Uncle’s Memoir 4.5 stars out of the full five.

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