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City of Clowns

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  654 ratings  ·  96 reviews
A gorgeously rendered graphic novel of Daniel Alarcón’s story City of Clowns.

Oscar “Chino” Uribe is a young Peruvian journalist for a local tabloid paper. After the recent death of his philandering father, he must confront the idea of his father’s other family, and how much of his own identity has been shaped by his father’s murky morals. At the same time, he begins to ch
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published November 3rd 2015 by Riverhead Books (first published January 30th 2011)
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Scott Ollar I disagree with Lauri's answer in that there was literally no violence in the story at all. It's about the despair of growing up poor and aimless in P…moreI disagree with Lauri's answer in that there was literally no violence in the story at all. It's about the despair of growing up poor and aimless in Peru. It also reflects on the universal experience of learning that our parents often have feet of clay, and fail to live up to our youthful expectations. The artwork is very dark, even when depicting daylight scenes. I didn't think it told a very coherent story, but was instead a series scenes linked by a central character. In the end, I felt the book was as aimless as its central character Chino.(less)

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Liz Janet
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I received an arc via Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.
The New Yorker: City of Clowns

If you have never read any of his open-ended and non-linear works, I suggest you start immediately. Not only is he an amazing novelist with Lost City Radio, but his short stories from War by Candlelight: Stories are just beautiful, and "City of Clowns" was originally published in that collection. It is an incredible story, and I thought it was powerful in short-story format, but it is even more so as
I read this for a class, and as an exercise we first had to read the short story (by the same name, by Daniel Alarcón) this is based on, and then write down how we thought the graphic novel would look and how we’d visualize it if we had to.

I imagined something with very few colors, but it wasn’t in black and white, rather it was held in sand colors, pale yellow, orange and brown. And I imagined whatever color there was to be watercolors, so they’d bleed out onto the page and touch other things,
Oct 14, 2019 rated it liked it
My second book by Daniel Alarcon. What a disappointment!
Disjointed and disordered.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm a graphic novel reader and a fan of Daniel Alarcón's writing, yet this book was too brief and disordered. The narrative leaps back in time but because the sections are so short, the bits feel too fragmented and incomplete. ...more
Mar 31, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting read about a man and his upbringing in Lima. The cultural differences between Peru and the U.S. are fascinating, but poverty is the same everywhere.
Khalid Albaih
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Back and forth timeline and poetic black and white rendering of memories.
A nice little treat of a book from Riverhead--a single (previously published) short story remixed slightly, pared down, and illustrated with black and white drawings by Sheila Alvarado. Alarcon's narrator Oscar (aka Chino) is the son of a man who migrates from a remote, hopeless, rural Peruvian mining town to Lima, city of opportunity. Some of that opportunity comes in the form of doing honest construction work on people's homes, while the rest comes from casing those same homes and later going ...more
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Graphic fiction by the Peruvian writer Daniel Alarcón, deftly illustrated by Sheila Alvarado. The story is of a journalist thinking back on the gritty poverty of Lima and his grifter father, a man capable of robbing his wife's employers and making his son an apprentice criminal, as well as the great mystery of his mother, who finds solace in the company of her husband's lover. ...more
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, 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 n
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Desperately seeking books to interest sophomore boys, I grabbed a copy off the shelf for purchase at Barnes and Noble without really knowing the content between the covers. After two students gave this work enthusiastic reviews, I decided to read it myself. The story will haunt you the way childhood haunts its protagonist--turning him into a man who is most comfortable as a lone, anonymous or semi-anonymous observer (in the guise of clown and journalist, respectively) addicted to the stimulation ...more
Michael Staten
Excellence must be recognized!

I was lucky to get my hands on an advanced copy. The pace, atmosphere, precision and detail, and supporting art all concentrate together into an impactful and thought provoking story. One of the best graphic novels I've read.
Jun 10, 2019 rated it liked it
City of Clowns is a graphic novel written by Daniel Alarcon and illustrated by Sheila Alvarado following the life of Oscar “Chino” Uribe as he remembers his late father- a man of calloused hands and emotions- while researching the life of clowns within his home city of Lima, Peru. You may read the non-illustrated edition for free on The New Yorker website.

I breezed through this in less than an hour, and don’t feel the particular desire to re-read in order to glean more detail and information th
Angie Fehl
Jul 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Oscar "Chino" Uribe is a working as a tabloid journalist in Peru when he gets news of his father's death. Returning home, Chino discovers his father, a laborer and small-time criminal, had a whole other family with a mistress, a woman Chino's mother is now living with.

Chino's boss gave him the assignment to do a feature on the street clown community of Lima, Peru. While Chino is not really in the headspace to do much writing, as he tries to work through anger stemming from being reminded of his
Mar 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I have my reservations about the merits of this book. The art was good and simple. The book is not set up like your regular graphic fictions, so that intrigued me. As I picked it on a whim, I did not know what to expect but I was slightly disappointed. It was a simple to understand story, the relationship between the main character and his father revisited and revised as well as his reaction to his mother and her relationship with the father’s mistress. Maybe I did not click well with the sombre ...more
Sabrina Nicole
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There are no words for how I adored this book. A friend recommended it to me and I read it all in one go. The illustrations are gorgeous, black and white, but so very rich and full of emotion. The storyline is all too familiar; a man learning to deal with grief and life as it comes towards him fast. The storytelling is fantastic; mixed into the main narratives are little reflections from the past, some of them good, some of them bad. The ambiguous ending left me feeling very vulnerable, perhaps ...more
Scott Ollar
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
The story really wasn't a complete story in the traditional sense, but rather a series of linked underdeveloped subplots. The best part of the graphic novel, frankly, was the afterword, where the author spoke briefly about his writing process. The artwork was rather crude, but effective. The artwork was really much darker than the story, if that makes any sense. Ir seemed to be trying to create a foreboding or ominous effect, which really didn't match the meandering story. ...more
Kendall Concini
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
#readingchallenge2020 (my book that begins with a C)

Who are we? Are we all just clowns?

A boy struggles to handle his father’s death, as he reflects upon his upbringing in different cultural experiences within Peru-rendering memories in a poetic back and forth timeline.

The strength in the novel comes from the formatting; the beauty of the graphic novel visualizations adds to the portions with a level of depth. The disintegrating world around Chino, the background, the lack of background, the comb
Jun 23, 2021 rated it liked it
Chino is a journalist in Lima, noticing a lot of clowns and their role of humiliation and ridicule on the city streets. He is charged with writing about them, just as he is coping with the legacy of his father, a looming character in his life who recently passed away. The background of this story is the city of Lima in a violent and tumultuous time, clever art manages to depict a somber, reflective tone about family and violence.
Jul 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Although i have been afraid of clowns for the majority of my life, i was rather intrigued by the title, and the fact that its a graphic novel... i am really impressed with the artwork in this graphic novel, the best that ive seen in a long time. Great story put into graphic novel form. I rather enjoyed this one.
May 18, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a decent story with interesting characters and setting. The art was okay but the layout and design was very effective. Rather than typical blocks, the layout was always in motion, driving the story. The scene changes, with full white pages with small pictures in the center, were too abrupt and frequent for my taste. But otherwise it was a decent effort.
Frank McGirk
Aug 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
Alarcon's book was "pretty good", and it had situations that could have really resonated, but for some reason they fell a little flat with me. One of those books, you really wish had been just a bit better...lots of promise. ...more
Kathy Heare Watts
I won a copy of this book during a Goodreads giveaway. I am under no obligation to leave a review or rating and do so voluntarily. So that others may also enjoy this book, I am paying it forward by donating it a local library.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Graphic novel-gift from my 17 year old son. It is different than most things I have read. Non linear and based in Lima. Fascinating. Written in a way where you can feel the protagonist's pain. Well written and thought provoking ...more
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Alarcón does a terrific job of evoking feelings in this story. It brings up some sadness about loss and less than perfect upbringing but it felt real. Everyone has a struggle and here is Oscar's.

I hope there's a follow-up.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
A thoughtful tale of grief and betrayal set in Lima. The illustrations are evocatively rendered but I can't help but feel they don't always add a ton to the story's presentation. Still, the thing works and I enjoyed reading it. ...more
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Good, quick read about one man's life growing up in Lima, Peru. It's a short story that I mistakenly thought was autobiographical. Thankfully the author gives the backstory in the end. Enjoyable enough that I'll probably try and read something else from Alarcon. The artwork was good but not great. ...more
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Found this novel randomly and purchased based solely on the imagery. Worthwhile read, more emotional/character, rather than, story/plot based. My favorite part was the illustrations and the ways in which the words were formatted and interwoven within the novel.
Shasta Bos
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars! Really enjoyed this one. Definitely not a light hearted novel and a lot deeper than I would have thought. Love love love the artwork. After I finished it I had to go back through and look at all the pictures. Haha.
Joanna Conrad
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very good. Thought it was autobiographical at first, surprised to find it wasn't. ...more
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
This was a beautiful book, both in story and in had a great continuity of narrative that sometimes is lacking in graphic novels.
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Daniel Alarcón’s fiction and nonfiction have been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, Virginia Quarterly Review, Salon, Eyeshot and elsewhere. He is Associate Editor of Etiqueta Negra, an award-winning monthly magazine based in his native Lima, Peru. His story collection, War by Candlelight, was a finalist for the 2006 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, and the British journal Granta recently name ...more

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