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Passing for Human: A Graphic Memoir

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  1,673 ratings  ·  242 reviews
A visually arresting graphic memoir about a young artist struggling against what’s expected of her as a woman, and learning to accept her true self, from an acclaimed New Yorker cartoonist.

In this achingly beautiful graphic memoir, Liana Finck goes in search of that thing she has lost—her shadow, she calls it, but one might also think of it as the “otherness” or “strangene
240 pages
Published September 2018 by Random House (first published 2018)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  1,673 ratings  ·  242 reviews

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David Schaafsma
“The day was green. They said, ‘You have a blue guitar. You do not play things as you are.’”—Wallace Stevens

Liana Finck’s Passing for Human is my idea of a great and truly inventive graphics memoir, using comics to explore the essence of her life story, and using every literary tool at her disposal to accomplish that goal. Franck says she has never been quite comfortable in the world, which makes us think: Outsider, alien, ennui, other. Finck says her “less than human” experience is in part “ne
Hannah Garden
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh my god this book. It opens like a hand full of seeds and then blooms, and keeps blooming.
Bogi Takács
Might talk about this at more length later on, I just want to note that this book is explicitly autism-related; this detail wasn't clear to me from the advance promo, only that it had SOME kind of neuroatypicality topic. I wish marketing people dared to be clearer about this type of content, it would help me assemble my "upcoming diverse books" lists a lot. (I am autistic! I am always on the lookout for this type of stuff! I am not the only one!)

Source of the book: Lawrence Public Library
Rod Brown
Autobiography as creation myth. Hm.

It starts, restarts, spirals, crosses over and circles back around on itself. Full of metaphor, symbolism and other foofaraw and fiddle-faddle for which I've little use or patience.
A Distaff G-d Spins Herself a Universe -- and an Artist

I loved the way artist/writer Liana Finck takes the trope of the biblical origin myth and spins it, re-spins it, spins it again, creating her own nested, interwoven artistic, familial, and cosmological origin story about a young woman (named "Leola") who loses and finds her own shadow -- her "strangeness" -- the "otherness" that makes her an artist but also makes it challenging to feel at home in the world of humans. In tracing her own "neur
Stewart Tame
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is almost a genre unto itself. Call it “poetic memoir” or something, I guess.

The main character’s name is not “Liana” but that's clearly who she's intended to be, or at least to represent. There are recurring passages throughout, and they gain power with repetition.

“A draw-er doesn't draw because she loves to draw. She doesn't draw because she draws well. She draws because once she lost something. And by drawing she will find it again.”

This is a book about losing one's shadow, and find
Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)
I am not a huge connoisseur of graphic novels, but I've read my fair share. I've always found they need to have a special spark to really strike me and get under my skin. This one wasn't quite there for me.

Though I can relate to the story of a girl who never really fit in and how her family history led her to who she is, this story lacked a certain cohesive element. I kept waiting for it all to come together into something quietly dramatic, inspirational and profound in a true-to-life way, but i
Dakota Morgan
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure what to make of Passing for Human. I'm fairly certain it's a graphic memoir about family and the autism spectrum, but the format makes it hard to grasp. Finck repeatedly reboots the narrative because the previous version wasn't good enough. She also tosses in several Bible stories for no apparent reason. And there's a great deal of discussion about shadows that mostly coasted over my head.

In the end, I think I read her biography and a biography of her parents, but I was also left wi
A dark sad book about a girl who grows up believing that she is barely human and unreachable to other humans who might make her more human. She chooses to stay away from other children and social situations but longs for them at the same time. She wants badly to write a book yet comes up darkly blank when she attempts to create artwork or write. Imaginary friends are enticing but she also struggles with whether they are good for her or not. Is she two people instead of one? The author is a carto ...more
Nov 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I love graphic memoirs so much, but this book just wasn't really for me. The shadow concept is interesting, but at first it was just a bit weird. Overall, the graphic memoir is pretty confusing. It is more like small memoirs (one of her relationship with a man, one of her mom's story, one of her dad, and one where she gets into detail about the shadow—I might be missing another one). My point is it's more like mini memoirs thrown together. The truth is that they barely delve into or reveal anyth ...more
Emilia P
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comic-books
I wanted to like this more than I did!
It was pretty high concept, deeply personal, and it didn't quite deliver a punch on either of those levels. But I like what Liana Finck is doing (critical but cautious, and singular, for sure) and I love her drawing style (like, scrunched up, simplified, slightly ragey Roz Chast? New Yorker Pals!), so I'll take it! I'll even give it an extra star I like her so much! :)
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics
I liked it. A sketchy rough art style perfectly fits the harsh grasping at relating one's deepest self on a page. Lots of pain, lots of growth. I need some time to ruminate on it.
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: graphic-novels
I didn't dislike this, but I did feel like it wasn't the book I expected it to be; I was expecting the author to speak about herself, and instead, she mostly spoke about how her parents - how their lives had affected her, how she inherited their "strangeness" in some way. Her father's inability to connect to people. Her mother's shadow. Their (vague, undefined) struggles when her father's weirdness apparently overwhelmed his ability to maintain his facade of normality.

While that's certainly inte
Brenda A
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: comic-con-2018
I respect the author's quest to rediscover herself, and the struggles that are tied to that. It's a tough thing, and in this case she describes her weirdness as her "shadow," a somewhat tangible thing that marks her as separate from other people.

It was just too repetitive for me. The illustrations themselves and the actual print were just duplications of the one fundamental idea. And since the whole graphic novel is the same story repeated several times (with very little in the way of actual plo
Maureen Stanton
Jan 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Some of the artwork is compelling (especially the scratch art), but I wish the author had spent more time telling her story. There is a meta-narrative throughout the book that takes over; the "how to tell the story" line starts to overwhelm the "story" line. The narrative is circular and repetitive, which is interesting for effect to a degree, but I think the balance is off (for me)--too much meta! I left this book knowing little about the author, even though it's a "memoir." Aside from the meta ...more
musa b-n
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's been a while since I've read a graphic novel, and it's because I get so attached to them. I found this book to be stunning. Finck's repetitive chorus of a story from altered perspectives seems almost lyrical. Early on, she says to another something along the lines of, "You make me almost remember how I used to draw as a child." The frames all echo that childish nostalgia of composition, though still clearly experiencing a frustration of whimsy or quashing of embellishment. Childish, but ext ...more
Sarah Booth
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful memoir of being an artist and working on who you are and how you fit into what is around you. It is dealing with all the doubts and disappointments and finding out you aren’t who you think you are sometimes and that neither is anyone else. Trying to find ourselves, our place and our story and how others stories are part of what makes our story. There is no easy cure for feeling lonely and not really human, but picking up a pen and writing a story is a beautiful way to be human! Loved i ...more
The memoir of an autistic woman, told through family history and creation myth. The scribbled, doodled art grew on me but never really appealed--I'd call this an issue of personal taste. The fantastical, metaphorical, metatextual concept of self is more my style, and it's successful when juxtaposed with concrete "real" events. But there's an excess of the former and a limited amount of the latter, especially in the conclusion. This has a poetic logic, but not enough to grasp on to, not enough of ...more
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
... It's not exactly what I thought it was going to be... the title kind of gave me the feeling it would be like Allie Brosh's Hyperbole & a Half (the deeper parts). And it's not to say this book isn't deep, but it's just not what I thought it was going to be...

I like the style.
I love the title.
The epilogue was interesting.
The shadows were delightful.
But I found myself confused at times.

So for now, 2 stars.
Emma Sea
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
requested via pn-library
Sean O
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it
The story and the art go together. Both are good. It didn’t grab me, but there are people who would enjoy this.
Peter Herrmann
Apr 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
Took it out of the library because on the back cover was a testimonial by Roz Chast - whose graphic works are genius. But I found this graphic work (of which I'm generally not a big fan - with a few exceptions) uninspired. The graphics were not - with a few exceptions - to my liking, and the story was an attempt to dramatize a rather undramatic, prosaic upbringing. The twists and turns - time reversals, sudden change of topic, etc - seemed to be a transparent attempt at making a dull story inter ...more
Vishal Katariya
I love Liana Finck's art in a slightly strange way. Sometimes it puts me off, but most times it almost slaps me and tells me to report things straight, as they are. This book is marvelous. I loved Finck's portrayal of her parents' lives. Passing for Human, indeed. Some of the part about her parents remind me for some reason of A Wrinkle in Time. I read the book in 2018 but decided to re-read/browse through it again.
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very beautiful book. Sensitive and a little magical. The illustration style really grows on you. It's relatively short but I found myself lingering on pages and revisiting sections. It's hard to look away from certain pages -- I love the image of a shadow pushing itself through a window, for instance. Excellent.
Sep 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Parts of this hit painfully close to home-- especially the parts about living in the past, loneliness, and letting your relationships define your worth -- but the tale that contains these pieces is spread out and sparse I'm not sure how effective it would for those who don't experience anxiety.
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Alyssa by: Alison Tyne
I'm not crying, you're crying.

A beautiful and sad and beautiful graphic novel / memoir, so full of feelings that I often finished a chapter and then had to take a break to think about everything that had happened.
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
"A story is like a coral reef,

You live inside of it

You add something,

You take something away
Eventually you die,

Becoming part of the story yourself."

I liked this graphic memoir. Spare illustrations, teamed up with an insightful narrative. There is also a magical element to it, as well.
Miranda Hency
Jun 28, 2019 rated it liked it
The author is weird and so are her parents, and she had a weird relationship. Ok. The art was pretty.
Dec 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars!

So this is another one of those I picked up on a total whim and knew nothing about before opening it up. The first thing that is obvious is the standard of the drawing, it looks like a hung over scrawl done on a long and winding car journey and yet Finck still manages to evoke the places and spaces she tries to conjure up.

This started off loaded with possibility and for quite a while it looked like it was going to produce a hammering punch of a delivery, but something really strange ha
Jessica Rosner
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this so much. It is one of those books I have to own yet would I recommend it to everyone? No. To love it as I do you need to be someone who has an appreciation for illustrated (graphic) books.
It’s a memoir but it feels like a fable.
I am smitten and jealous of this artist/ writer. Her artwork is simple but not necessarily spare. It’s black on white ink except one section which is the reverse. Her lines are SO expressive. Like David Shrigly mixed with who? Sometimes Gorey or Bek.
I woul
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #16 Passing for Human by Liana Finck 1 2 Mar 03, 2019 06:39PM  

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Liana Finck is an emerging graphic novelist. She was a Fulbright Fellow in Brussels in 2009-10 and is a Six Points Fellow in New York. She publishes in The Forward Newspaper and Tablet Magazine.

Source: Contact Liana.

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“A draw-er doesn't draw because she loves to draw. She doesn't draw because she draws well. She draws because once she lost something. And by drawing--she will find it again.” 3 likes
“In her heart, the devil said, "No! No!" But from her mouth came the words "Yes, you may." And from then on, everything the devil said was the opposite of what she meant. And everything she did, she did backwards.” 1 likes
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