Arminzerella's Reviews > Drawing from Memory

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say
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Allen Say (Kiyoi) is a popular children’s author and illustrator who grew up in Japan during WWII. His parents divorced after the war ended and Kiyoi went to live with his grandmother, who didn’t really approve of his ambitions – to become an artist. When he was accepted to a prominent school, his family paid for him to have his own apartment (at the tender age of 13!). While he was waiting for the term to start, he read about another young man like himself who was apprenticing with the famous cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. Acting on impulse, Kiyoi went to Shinpei and asked if he, too, could become an apprentice. After a short interview where Kiyoi answered a few questions and drew a picture of a horse, Shinpei accepted him and became his sensei, filling the role of Kiyoi’s absent father. As his art skills improved, Kiyoi was given more work to do for Shinpei. He also continued his studies. Then his father invited him to move to America and Kiyoi found himself torn – he had finally established himself in Japan and had friends and work and school…but, he was encouraged by his sensei, his mother, and others to explore the opportunities living abroad could offer him. This chapter of his life (and this biography) ends as he leaves behind everything he has known.

While he was working on this book, Allen Say kept in touch with Shinpei-sensei’s family in Japan. Shinpei’s daughter, Chieko-san, told him that the one thing her father had wanted to do before he died was to work on a book with him. This autobiography is that book, and it details the story of their friendship and relationship. Illustrations and photographs are interspersed with text, making this more of an illustrated biography (not a graphic novel, or a comic). It’s well-designed, and presents an interesting picture of Say’s life as a struggling young artist, as well as Japan, post-WWII.

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