“Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions,” by Andy Warner

“Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions,” by Andy Warner. St. Martin’s/Griffin, January 28, 2020. 208 pp. Paperback, $19.95. Adult.

Thanks to Fables Books, 215 South Main Street in downtown Goshen, Indiana, for providing Commons Comics with books to review. Visit the store or contact them at fablesbooks@gmail.com to find or order this or any book reviewed on this blog.

Note: St. Martin’s/Griffin Books sent me a free copy of this book.

Andy Warner opens his new memoir “Spring Rain” with a disclaimer: “Memory is a tricky business.” We watch his plane fly into Beirut, Lebanon, and see his younger self make his way through customs and the airport. It’s 2005, he’s twenty-one, and he’s visiting Beirut as an American study-abroad student. Present-day Warner explains that he’s been reading through old diaries from his semester abroad to piece together the time in his life that we’re watching and reading. “It’s hard to reread,” he admits. “I come off like an idiot.”

It’s a brilliant opener for two reasons. First, for Warner’s disarming self-deprecation, which encourages readers to trust him. Second, for the narrative teaser: we’re waiting for young Andy to do something stupid, so that we can find out precisely what form his idiocy will take. Continue reading ““Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions,” by Andy Warner”

“Hot Comb,” by Ebony Flowers

 

“Hot Comb” by Ebony Flowers. Drawn and Quarterly, June 18, 2019. 184 pp. Paperback, $22.95. Teen to adult.

Thanks to Fables Books, 215 South Main Street in downtown Goshen, Indiana, for providing Commons Comics with books to review. Visit the store or contact them at fablesbooks@gmail.com to find or order this or any book reviewed on this blog.

Quick note about upcoming workshops with comics artists I’ve reviewed: Frank Santoro, whose “Pittsburgh” I reviewed last month, will be giving a one-day free workshop in that city in March. And across the pond, Gabrielle Bell, whose “Everything Is Flammable” I reviewed in 2017, will be teaching a workshop in the French Pyrenees in June. That one’s not free, but surprisingly affordable given the setting, and scholarships are available.

 

With her debut “Hot Comb” topping “best of 2019” lists at outlets from “The Guardian” and “Publishers Weekly” to “Forbes,” you might think that Ebony Flowers must have been a kid prodigy doodling incessantly, making zines, and setting her sights on becoming a cartoonist. The real story is that she drew her first comic only eight years ago, in 2012, when she signed up on a whim for a class taught by comics grande dame Lynda Barry.

Flowers had just landed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to pursue a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, and signed up for Barry’s class on a whim. She ended up writing and publishing sections of her dissertation in comics form. She now calls herself “cartoonist, ethnographer, teacher” on her website.

“Hot Comb,” a collection of short stories with a good dose of autobiographical content, reads nothing like a dissertation. As you might guess, all of the stories center on hair. “It’s hard for me to disentangle my experience as a black woman . . . in America from my experience with hair,” Flowers explained to the “Chicago Tribune.” The stories address stereotypes, microaggressions, and structural racism, but also joy, self-love, and the way hair can help forge positive bonds between women of color, especially black women.

Flowers especially highlights that positive-negative tension in the segues between her stories, where she inks one-page parodies of the hair care advertisements that used to fascinate her as a child:

Continue reading ““Hot Comb,” by Ebony Flowers”

“Pittsburgh,” by Frank Santoro

“Pittsburgh” by Frank Santoro. New York Review Comics, September 2019. 216 pp. Hardcover, $29.95. Adult.

Thanks to Fables Books, 215 South Main Street in downtown Goshen, Indiana, for providing Commons Comics with books to review. Visit the store or contact them at fablesbooks@gmail.com to find or order this or any book reviewed on this blog.

If you’re in the Michiana area looking for a last-minute holiday gift, Fables books has got your back! They’ll be open Monday 12/23 and Christmas Eve.

Think Pittsburgh—what do you picture? Most people imagine heavy, decaying industry: steel, rust, and grime. Frank Santoro sees color—really bright color. Witness this two-page spread:

In his new book “Pittsburgh,” Santoro, a native of the city, graciously invites readers into his personal history of the place, as he works to summon and piece together memories of his family, neighbors, and neighborhoods. Continue reading ““Pittsburgh,” by Frank Santoro”