When it comes to comics and graphic novels, I tend to be drawn to those on the nonfiction shelf. I find the format tends to make darker or complex topWhen it comes to comics and graphic novels, I tend to be drawn to those on the nonfiction shelf. I find the format tends to make darker or complex topics more accessible and personalized than a long nonfiction tome. So I was intrigued by Squarzoni’s comic, which is subtitled “a personal journey through the science”, when I was browsing the library’s comics section.
This book grew out of Squarzoni’s efforts to present the French president’s political platform in a graphic format and the realization that he was writing about a topic — climate change — that he knew very little about. His partner, Camille, insists that Squarzoni will end up writing an entire book on the subject as he begins researching what exactly “climate change” is and, well, turns out she was right.
The book becomes an interesting blend of Squarzoni’s research, interviews with scientists and policy makers, and struggle to reconcile what he learns with how he lives his life. He has a rather off-putting obsession with how a storyteller chooses to start a story and devotes a number of panels to this question, including several on the movies he’s Once he moves onto the actual topic of climate change, Squarzoni makes a connection between our consumer-based economy — that is, the fact that economic growth only comes from increasing consumption of goods — to the increase in greenhouse gases and the destruction of the environment worldwide. And, like many people, he ends up wrestling with how to adopt the solutions being advocated by those he interviews into his own life.
Some of the solutions — reducing energy consumption, refusing to drive large vehicles or adopt other behaviors he sees as imports from America — are ones he’s already doing while others require government policy to change or an individual to sacrifice a convenience of modern life. At one point, he is offered what sounds like a fantastic opportunity in Laos and turns it down because he cannot overcome the guilt he feels over flying given its contribution to greenhouse glasses. Two years later, he and Camille travel to Montana to visit the very glaciers disappearing because of climate change. It is just not reasonable to expect him to never travel again.
Squarzoni’s difficulty with reconciling macro-changes to his life on the micro-scale fostered a lot of apathy within me as I was reading the book and, unlike others on the topic before it, I didn’t finish the book feeling as though I could rush out and try to change the world. After all, there are only so many light bulbs one can change, reusable bags one can carry, or car trips one can switch for public transportation.
But it also is a refreshingly honest addition to the section of the library devoted to climate change. And Squarzoni’s book lends a lot of credibility both through this honesty — climate change science is hard to understand, climate change is hard to address given there is no one band-aid solution — and given its its ability to breakdown the complexities of the issue into easily digestible bits through interviews and beautiful ...more
Nineteen-year-old Aya lives in working-class city of Yopougon (also known as Yop City) of the Ivory Coast in 1978. Aya's father works for Solibra, a bNineteen-year-old Aya lives in working-class city of Yopougon (also known as Yop City) of the Ivory Coast in 1978. Aya's father works for Solibra, a beer company, and is determined to establish a match between the young son of his boss and his daughter.
As a studious young woman determined to become a doctor, Aya is neither interested in this match nor in the cousin of one of her closest friends. As such, much of the novel is devoted to the antics of Aya's two closest friends, Adjoua and Bintou, who enjoy dancing, sneaking out to the tables in the city center known as the Thousand Star Hotel to meet boys, and generally having a good time.
Focusing on Aya's friends and their lives rather than Aya herself seems like an odd choice given that Aya is the title character, and I'm curious to see if this changes in the subsequent volumes. But certainly focusing on Adjoua and Bintou helped the stress the differences between Aya and her friends. And as someone who grew up in a society where my female friends expected to go to college, get married, and become stay-at-home moms, I certainly connected with Aya and how different she is from her friends. And the street harassment Aya and her friends are subjected to repeatedly? What happens in Yop City also happens in Boston and other cities throughout America.
The color palette Oubrerie used to bring to life Abouet's words beautifully brings to life the warmth of Yop City and the Ivory Coast. While some of the characters appeared rather cartoonist in appearance, I loved how Oubrerie focused on utilizing three colors -- red, yellow and orange, or blue, green, and purple -- for the panels of a certain chapter or page.
The two sections of this novel that should not be missed are the introduction and the glossary at the end. The glossary explains the slang interspersed throughout the story as well as the particular way Ivorian women dress. The discussion on how to roll a tassaba in order to make the men fall at your feet read like a humorous lesson being given by Adjoua and Bintou.
The introduction, which was written by an economist, discusses the setting of the novel -- the Ivory Coast in the 1970s -- and how the country was considered an example of how countries in Africa could develop. The spectacular economic growth the country experienced from the conversion of forests to cropland and from investments from French nationals in the country was dubbed the "Ivorian miracle" and explains why Abouet and Oubrerie's novel does present a version of Africa that does not include lions, child soldiers, and AIDS. It's such a refreshing view, and I am now wondering why this "miracle" was not discussed in my courses on economic development in university. ...more
On his journey from present-day Mongola to India, the British wannabe anthropologist Mr. Smith stays for a period of time with a wealthy trader and hiOn his journey from present-day Mongola to India, the British wannabe anthropologist Mr. Smith stays for a period of time with a wealthy trader and his beautiful, young wife named Anis. As a Muslim woman, Anis is required to remain hidden from Mr. Smith and other male, non-family visitors to the home. Therefore, she often passes her days in complete solitude save for the few moments she spends with her son, Hassan, and the woman hired to care for him, Mahfu, and the Persian cat that often spurs her affections.
Anis tries to remind herself that she has no reason to be unhappy. She lives in a beautiful home, her husband has no plans to take another wife, and she has given birth to a son. Yet her loneliness is still omnipresent, particularly after Mahfu explains to Anis about the sacred tradition of “avowed sisterhood” where two married women become lifelong secret keepers and never become jealous of each other. Determined to make a female friend if not an avowed sister, Anis convinces her husband to allow her to visit the public baths with Mahfu accompanying her and eventually meets a women by the name of Sherine.
I mentioned the first six volumes of Mori’s series in my list of ten favorite reads from 2015, and this volume will likely make my list for 2016. Her choice to focus on Anis’ interest in Sherine’s body — the shape of her eyes, the size of her breasts, the comparison to Anis’ cat — as the basis for Anis’ interest in getting to know Sherine is a departure from the typical focus of Mori’s series, but I think this emphasis on sexuality and the differences between female bodies is an interesting and accurate approach to how women view one another at first glance.
Whether women have been conditioned to “compare” because of society or not, Anis develops a “girl crush” (as my friends and I call them) based on the appearance of Sherine’s body. Yet Mori’s drawing of this interest is never drawn with the heaving, over-the-top focus that more male-oriented comics suffer from. Breasts and bodies are presented in all different sizes and shapes — much like one would see in the changing room of a gym (apropo given the setting of the story) — and the near-constant nudity is beautifully rendered without feeling like fanservice to keep male readers interest.
While there is some nudity during scenes with Anis and her husband, her breasts are nearly always covered in those moments and the focus is either on her back or her mouth as the converses with him. The emphasis of the story is on female friendships and how women view the female body rather than that the male perception so often seen in comics. (Interestingly, scenes where Mr. Smith and Anis’ husband visit the men’s public bath are typically devoid of nudity.)
As Sherine and Anis’s attention moves away from physical appearances, the two women are able to find common connections based on more substantial interests and develop a bond that allows them to lean on each other after a tragedy. This shift in focus would have been added by an additional chapter where the women are allowed to get to know one another. Even the other women in the story express shock at how quickly Anis and Sherine’s relationship advances! But the story is still beautiful in its simplicity and in the way it is visually rendered in each panel.
At the end of the book, Mori discusses how she chose to use a lighter touch in her drawings this time, and this stylistic choice is best seen in her full-page drawings of Anis spending time the courtyard of her home. (I included pictures of two such panels above.) The panels feel very airy and include beautiful depictions of the scenery yet still manage to convey the darkness of Anis’ loneliness. This is one of those rare comics where I read first for the story and then go back to look at every panel in greater detail because every single panel is beautiful. Seven volumes into this series, Mori still manages to amaze me with her talent....more
**spoiler alert** In the aftermath of World War I, twenty-six year old Frances Wray and her mother are obliged to take in paying guests -- a more poli**spoiler alert** In the aftermath of World War I, twenty-six year old Frances Wray and her mother are obliged to take in paying guests -- a more polite term for lodgers that allows Mrs. Wray and the neighbors to ignore the family's rather spectacular tumble in social standing. Their room for rent notice is answered by a young, married couple from the "clerk class" named Lilian and Leonard Barber, and the Wrays and Barber have to adjust to rubbing elbows with members of different social classes.
Frances may be uncomfortable with soliciting the rent check every two weeks, but she is far more willing to face the realities of life in 1922 than her mother is. And she has found cleaning and cooking for her mother helps keep her mind from dwelling on the hatred she feels towards her deceased father for leaving her and her mother in this position, on the what ifs in life.
The one person she is unable to stop thinking about, though, is Mrs. Barber, and as the two grow closer, each of them ends up confessing a secret about themselves that society would shame them over. For Lili, it's her shotgun wedding; for Frances, it's the love affair she had with another woman during the war. These secrets tie the two women together, and the two of them become engaged in three criminal affairs of their own -- one of the heart, one of self-preservation from an unhappy marriage, and one of homicide.
The lead-in to this novel lasts about an hundred pages and could have done with some serious editing. The minuet descriptions of cleaning and household drudgery became a chore (pun intended), and I likely would have set the novel aside had it not been the March selection for my book club.
Yet this all changed when the novel shifts from the first part -- a more typical novel of historical fiction -- to the second part, which is something more akin to a lesbian romance novel. That shift threw the story and the characters into unexpected and unexplored territory. A very sit up and take notice moment for me to kept me intrigued as the novel metamorphosed again into a crime thriller in the third part.
The three sections are tied together through the atmospheric and melancholic tone of Waters' writing, which became one of my favorite aspects of the novel once the plot began to progress. It adds an air of mystery and darkness to the novel that particularly works perfectly in the last section as Frances has to reconcile the Lili of her mind with the realities before her.
And while the slow pace, the attention to detail was the source of much consternation from my fellow book clubbers but, as the novel progressed, it became clear that this reflected the state of mind of Waters' protagonist. Frances has to pay attention to every situation and every point of view in order to keep her sexuality a secret, and neither woman is inclined to instigate something illegal in the eyes of the law.
What that illegal activity is, though, depends on the point of view of each woman, and Waters' exploration of morality within this novel is fascinating. I would side with one woman, turn on her, and then change my mind all over again. And the beauty of Waters' writing, of this story is that it keeps Frances and Lili from ever feeling truly exonerated in the eyes of both the law and the reader.
It may have taken me awhile to slip into this novel, but I am glad I persevered through those rough, first hundred pages. Even if no one else my book club could say the same....more
**spoiler alert** Over the course of an afternoon in Ohio, Pekar interweaves the history of Judaism from Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac on the a**spoiler alert** Over the course of an afternoon in Ohio, Pekar interweaves the history of Judaism from Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac on the alter for God to expressions of the Jewish faith in 2011 with his own personal history as a Jew and a critic of Israel. Panels are devoted to depicting both histories -- the personal and the publicly shared -- as well as the time Pekar and Waldman spend at a used book store and the Cleveland Public Library during Pekar's monologue.
Raised by a Zionist and communist mother and a conservative Jewish father, Pekar grew up revering and blindly supporting Israel. It wasn't until he became involved in anti-war and communist activities in the United States during the 1960s and the 1970s that Pekar really began to question the beliefs that had been instilled in him.
His disillusionment becomes more pronounced over time, and this development coincides with his history lesson for Waldman on present-day Israel's struggles over its identity as a Jewish, democratic country with both the rise in the number of Arab citizens and a more Orthodox clergy defining who counts as Jewish. This back and forth helps to encapsulate the reaction an individual will have on the micro-scale to macro-level events.
As the events of Pekar's life and the history of Judaism march towards the present-day, this reaction starts to fade and Pekar begins to list out his grievances towards Israel. Whether that is because Pekar long made up his mind about Israel or because he was running out of time on that particular day in Cleveland or because Waldman was unable to follow-up with Pekar to expand on the story due to his unexpected death that year, it remains unclear. But this shifts the fulcrum of Pekar becoming a critic of Israel from what the country has done on the global stage to one particular moment in the 1970s when the country rejected him.
When Pekar becomes disillusioned with life in America after being declared unfit for military service and unable to find a job, he seizes on the idea that Israel must accept him because he is Jewish and makes inquiries into how to immigrate at the local Israeli embassy. He is immediately and swift rejected by the Israeli authority who laughs at him and points out that Israel has no need for a wannabe music critic or a disabled person. That moment, it seems, is the real moment when Pekar decides he can no longer support Israel.
A valid reason for his disillusionment with Israel? I think that's too personal to comment on, although I do understand how bitterly disappointing this rejection would be if one grew up hearing about Israel is the homeland for all Jews (and it fits really well with the title of the book). Given the way other issues are seemingly listed out rather than addressed in detail as this moment was makes this a more personal story than a jumping point for the reader to have a philosophical and/or political debate with themselves.
I loved the variation in the panels by Waldman. At one point, he and Pekar get into the car and drive from the used book store to the public library. This could have been an odd lull in the story yet Waldman keeps the transition interesting by styling the panels like the dashed lines of an old map leading to treasure under a large 'X'. (You can see an example of on my blog.) And the pop-up of Harvey and his critic on the newspaper clips of their words? Genius! It brings the writers and their words alive in the way a reprint of the columns could never.
There is a short epilogue written and drawn by Pekar's wife, Joyce Brabner, following his untimely death. Stylistically different from the rest of the book, the epilogue nevertheless encapsulates the story and how Pekar viewed himself -- a Jewish artist uninterested in fame whose homeland is Cleveland not Israel....more
This graphic novel covers the first third of Gabaldon’s Outlander novel from the point of view of her male protagonist, Jamie Fraser. Jamie returns frThis graphic novel covers the first third of Gabaldon’s Outlander novel from the point of view of her male protagonist, Jamie Fraser. Jamie returns from France with a bounty hanging over his head, and he plans to hide out from both the British Redcoats and his uncles from the Clan Mackenzie, particularly his Uncle Dougal who worries Jamie will be named his brother and laird’s heir. Meeting Claire Beauchump usurps these plans, and Jamie is determined to protect Claire even if she puts him directly in the murderous path of the British or his uncles.
Rather confusingly, Gabaldon’s preface says the graphic novel is from Jamie’s godfather Murtagh’s point of view, but it quickly become evident that this is not the case. In fact, there isn’t much new information or perspectives be to gleaned from reading this adaption. The complex and rich tale introduced in the original novel is flattened out, and important details — such as why Geillis and Claire are arrested — are left out entirely.
Gabaladon adds a new character to the story (or, at least, one that is new to me given that I have read only two of the eight books in the series) — Geillis’ second boyfriend, who travels from the 1960s to the present with Geillis and plots against Geillis’ other boyfriend with her. Except how would Jamie know about this? How would anyone other than Geillis know about this character’s existence?
As for the graphics, I expected Nguyen’s vision of Jamie would be unlikely to match my own, but the presentation of Claire really felt like an attempt to grab male readers. Claire’s breasts spill out of her dresses whether or not the fabric is torn, and they heave more in this graphic novel than any other romance novel I’ve ever read.
There lack of distinction between the male characters made it difficult to discern who was talking, and the blurry backgrounds did nothing to convey the beauty of the Scottish countryside that Galabadon was so clearly fond of in her original novel. The panels felt like quick sketches done during novel development rather than the final product. Most disappointingly, though, there was nothing about the panels to discover or examine in greater detail, which is often my favorite part of reading comics.
If I knew someone struggling to follow the events of Gabaldon’s original novel and in need of a primer, then I might recommend this book to them. But a lovely television adaption exists that is truer to the events of the novel, far more tasteful in its depiction of Claire’s body, and includes pieces of Jamie’s perspective, and I would advise starting with that over the graphic novel....more
In this collection of anecdotes from the road, Steinem's premise is that the only way to understand one's fellow citizens and, therefore, enact changeIn this collection of anecdotes from the road, Steinem's premise is that the only way to understand one's fellow citizens and, therefore, enact change is to hit the road and engage in face-to-face conversations. Which makes the book a rather ironic choice for Emma Watson's online, feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf.
The book begins with Steinem sharing about her own childhood -- the father who never settled and the mother who never had a choice -- and how these experiences shaped her into a person who longs to travel, to live out her life as she wants to. And she touches briefly on how this is a rather revolutionary concept for women are often discouraged from traveling alone either out of concerns about their safety or because such acts would bring shame upon the family. If a women can go out on a self-willed journey and be welcomed warmly when she comes home, then perhaps the world is less restrictive and patriarchal than it has been in the past.
It's said that the biggest determinant of our lives is whether we see the world as welcoming or hostile. Each becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I have often heard Steinem and other mainstays of the feminist/women's movement in America be lambasted for their lack of interest in intersectional feminism. That is, by focusing on gender pay gaps, political representation, and access to education, feminists too often ignore that a person's identity and, therefore, oppression is multifaceted. I can no more change my skin color than I can change my disabilities or my sexual orientation. Reading this memoir, though, makes it apparent that this charge does not apply to Steinem.
...one of the simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.
There are two moments in Steinem's life on the road that had a profound influence on her -- a conference on women's rights in Houston in the 1970s where state representatives were directly elected by women and her time in Oklahoma with a Native American activist named Wilma Mankiller. In both instances, Steinem devoted her time and efforts listening to the stories and desires of women of color so that feminism and the women's movement could address the issues within their communities. And, in fact, the biggest lesson I took away from reading Steinem's memoir was that I need to increase my own understanding of life in Indian Country. I need to listen and learn. I need to be a better intersectional feminist.
...the most reliable predictor of whether a country is violent within itself -- or will use military violence against another country -- is not poverty, natural resources, religion, or even degree of democracy; it's violence against females. It normalizes all other violence.
In discussing her efforts to increase representation of minorities both within the movement at large and at Ms. Magazine, Steinem does fall into the trap of proclaiming herself as "I'm not like those other women". She wrote earlier in the book about how important is to resist ranking instead of linking humans, and it was disappointing to see her repeatedly set herself up as the anti-power activist to Betty Friedan's desire to serve on one board after another. Do I agree that there need to be more voices and more people within the feminist movement? Obviously. But I so loathe segregation perpetrated by comments about not being like "other girls", which are far too often used by people across the gender spectrum to put down women as shallow and stupid, that it was disappointing to see Steinem fall into this trap herself.
Aside from that quibble, I was greatly heartened by Steinem's confession that she loathes public speaking even after all these years of being an activist. (Organizer, as Steinem would probably correct.) But she explained that she looks at her talk as a way to open the door to a greater conversation. If she can get the audience to engage with her afterwards, then she has done her job as a speaker. If she can get the audience to engage with each other but answering questions asked to her, then she has done her job as an organizer. This approach may not directly translated into the business world, especially since women are routinely talked over or disregarded, but it is certainly a different and rather inspiring way of approaching a presentation or lecture.
The selection of this memoir for January was particularly well-timed as the public is being re-reminded of Bill Clinton's extra-marital affairs and Hillary Clinton's response to them. In discussing her decision to support Clinton in the 2008 presidential election, Steinem discusses how she listened to and conversed with numerous "Hillary Haters" -- white, well-educated feminist women who did not want Clinton as president -- and learned that their hatred stemmed from Clinton's refusal to leave her husband over his affairs. They wanted to see Clinton eviscerate her husband because they were unwilling to leave their own husbands and jealous of the equality within the Clintons' marriage. This reasoning does not exactly jive with my recollection of the 2008 nomination process, and I admit that I dismissed it out of hand. Yet, two days after I finished this particular section of Steinem's memoir, there was an article in the New York Times about how Clinton is losing support of feminists over Bill's 1990s affairs.
In describing this memoir to family and friends, I said that it was a bit like getting coffee with Steinem and listening to her recollect moments in her life. She does seem to jump from one event to another, and the book switches from being arranged topically to chronically and back again. But it was one of the better coffee dates I've had in some time as it reaffirmed the importance of intersectional feminism and pointed out the places I still need to visit and learn from. Time to go on my own self-willed journey....more