A father with a secret family. A forgiving and loving mother. A chance to hide in plain sight and research clowns. All under the grey skies in Lima, PA father with a secret family. A forgiving and loving mother. A chance to hide in plain sight and research clowns. All under the grey skies in Lima, Peru.
Alarcon's City of Clowns previously published as a short story and later adapted for this graphic novel with a friend and illustator, Sheila Alvarado. It's a melancholy story: musings and memories of childhood, a man stricken by grief after the death of his father - who had another family on the side. All of this comes to light while Oscar's newspaper asks him to write a piece on the street performer clowns that are working political protests in the plaza.
Oscar decides to join the clowns for a day, riding city buses, performing in silly clothes, shoes, and makeup, and marveling when people he knows do not recognize him in this attire. He finds some freedom in this, even going to the neighborhood of his father's other family and seeing his half brothers, finally seeing his mother, the only one who does recognize him in his costume.
The story flows in and out of present - intertwining stories of youth and memories of his father. This switch between times may have been more confusing in written word, but it flows well in graphic form.
It's a thoughtful book with beautiful art. I hope to see more work by both Alarcon and Alvarado. ...more
This book underscored just how technology has revolutionized communications. In the early 1880s a British woman, Maria Soltera, intrepid and courageouThis book underscored just how technology has revolutionized communications. In the early 1880s a British woman, Maria Soltera, intrepid and courageous traveler fluent in Spanish, decides to travel to Central America after a single off-handed comment about a job opening in San Pedro Sula, Honduras as a school teacher. This book is her travel diary. The story begins when she is in San Francisco (having traveled already across the Atlantic and then across the US by train) as she prepares for a steamer trip to the Pacific port of Honduras at Amapala.
Soltera was brave. She was single woman traveling alone with modest funds and little idea of what to expect in this region. When she arrives in Honduras, she organizes her plans to travel across the country with two hired hands, one a native assistant/guide, and the other a "mule trainer".
Honduras in 1880s was akin to the Wild West (but a tropical environment) - most likely even less development and infrastructure. A traveler had to innately trust the people around them. You traveled until you saw a house, and then you stopped and it was expected that these strangers would provide food and boarding for you and your animals. This concept is pretty foreign to the modern mind.
I was hoping for more descriptions of the land and the people through her journal. While she provided some small details, she writes more of her conversations with people along the way. These offered some interesting topics of life in Honduras at that time - of particular note was the hope that the transnational railway (funded and promised by the British) would be completed. (And unfortunately, it never was - a great "fleecing" of the Honduran government by both Europe and America with promise after promise of funding development...)
In the end, when Soltera finally arrives in San Pedro Sula, she realizes that there is no school, therefore no need for a teacher... she has been the victim of a con - an especially drawn out long con that involved thousands of miles of travel. Which brings me back to my original point: while Soltera was brave, courageous and headstrong, she was also incredibly naive and gullible. She had no way of checking references and seeing if this man (who advertised the job) was even real - she just set out and made this huge journey. She was too trusting - unsavory con-men surely existed in the 19th century, and she fell for it....more
One thing that really appealed to me about this book was the amount of visual data - there are charts, graphs, and many photographs. Alongside the visOne thing that really appealed to me about this book was the amount of visual data - there are charts, graphs, and many photographs. Alongside the visuals, there is a very readable history of the region from pre-Columbian times to the present. It is a solid primer on the isthmian geography, politics, economics, and culture, and I learned a lot from it. ...more
I was happy to find this book by a Central American scholar in translation. While I admit to skimming some sections, the ones I focused on (first 2/3sI was happy to find this book by a Central American scholar in translation. While I admit to skimming some sections, the ones I focused on (first 2/3s of book) were engaging and well-researched. Perez-Brignoli is methodical in his approach, and each country is examined in succession through the time periods. I liked this style as it was easy to compare what was happening in (example) Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala in a certain span of years. ...more
A collection of stories set in a fictional "banana republic" of Anchuria, likely modeled after Honduras, where the author, O. Henry, spent some time eA collection of stories set in a fictional "banana republic" of Anchuria, likely modeled after Honduras, where the author, O. Henry, spent some time evading the law after embezzlement and tax evasion charges. The characters are largely American businessmen and government officials, who are all to happy to pull fast cons and loaf about in hammocks, pining for their lost loves and failed dealings in the States. There is humor, primarily slapstick style, in the vaudevillian antics of the expats. The reader can easily glean O. Henry's political leanings and prevalent opinions regarding American expansionism / manifest destiny, race, and corporate business in the Caribbean/Central America. ...more