Category Archives: Graphic Novels Reading Project

The Park Bench by Chabouté

The Park Bench by Chabouté Title: The Park Bench
Author: Chabouté
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0571332304
Genre: Graphic Novels
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

The first read of the year – I love the sound of this sentence. 2018 couldn’t have started off better. Yes, it is a graphic novel. Yes, it is a book with only images and no words, but who said, images can’t be read? Who said that this doesn’t count as a book? No one really and even if they did, then well, to each his own. To me, ​it is a read and a satisfying one at that.

“The Park Bench” by Chabouté is about a park bench (obviously in a park) and the people it watches pass, stop, meet, return, wait, sleep, thrown out, and all of this happens in a strangely intertwined manner that is life. The bench in all of this is the central character – stable, stationary and yet witness to all of it. Imagine if the bench could talk, the stories it could tell, isn’t it? The book is just like that.

There is so much hope contained in this book that it will make you see the world differently, even if it is for a short while. The use of space, lines, art that conveys so many emotions and yet there is something hidden that makes you want to know more and above all the recurring characters that become so familiar – the ache when the book ends and you know what you have experienced is something so profound.

“The Park Bench” makes you mull over​ things and people other than yourself (which is a very good thing, given the times we live in). It might also make you want to speak with a stranger, nod at someone in understanding, smile at someone or maybe just be. There have been so many times when I have wanted to reach out to someone and haven’t. Maybe now I will.

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The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story Expanded Edition by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson with Kyle Baker

The Fifth Beatle Title: The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story Expanded Edition
Author: Vivek J. Tiwary
Illustrated by: Andrew C. Robinson with Kyle Baker
Publisher:M Press; Expanded edition
ISBN: 978-1616558352
Genre: Graphic Novel, Graphic Memoirs
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Not much is known about people behind the scenes in any profession. It is always people who hog the limelight, get spoken of or written about. Which is how the world works. The ones who are in the shadows rarely get any credit. Not to say that it happens to all. Maybe to some. Maybe not to some. And we all know of The Beatles – almost about all four of them, even some additions, but very few know of Brian Epstein, on which this graphic novel is based.

Brian Epstein was The Beatles’ manager. Actually, I think he was more than just their manager. He was their friend, philosopher and guide in the true sense of the phrase. “The Fifth Beatle” (as he was known after his death by Paul McCartney many years later) is the story of Brian. Not just because he discovered The Beatles and gave the world the joy of listening to them but also because people need to know the man behind this band and what he stood for to believe in four unknown musicians and make them the darlings of the pop music scene in a very short time.

Vivek J. Tiwary’s research is meticulous and the writing is spot-on. From speaking of Brian’s personal life (being gay and Jewish wasn’t easy on the man) to his professional life (despite having a soft corner for George, he never let that come in the way of furthering the career of The Beatles), Tiwary covers everything with just the right amount of content. It doesn’t feel too much, nor does it feel too little. Plus, the illustrations of Andre C. Robinson and Kyle Baker are so spectacular that you just go back and fix your gaze on so many panels.

Brian Epstein’s life comes to life in the true sense of the word through this graphic memoir and it doesn’t take a lot to read this one. If anything, I reread it because you can never get enough of a good graphic memoir and more so given I didn’t know anything about him or had heard of him at all before buying this one on a whim.

My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1 by Gengoroh Tagame . Translated by Anne Ishii

51rq4hPobXL Title: My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1
Author: Gengoroh Tagame
Translated from the Japanese by
Publisher: Pantheon Graphic Novels
ISBN: 978-1101871515
Genre: Graphic Novels
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

“My Brother’s Husband” is a graceful manga by Gengoroh Tagame. It handles homosexuality, homophobia and xenophobia (to some extent) very tenderly and not once did I feel berated being a gay man or an insider looking out while reading this manga. Tagame tells the story of parents and in turn of children and how important it is for children to learn, believe and accept alternate sexualities. At the same time, this manga doesn’t get preachy at all. It doesn’t sermonize or ask you to change yourself. It provides different perspectives and that’s that to it.

Yaichi – a single Japanese dad is forced to confront his painful past when an affable Canadian named Mike Flanagan shows up at his door, declaring himself to be the widower of Yaichi’s estranged gay twin Ryoji. Mike wants to explore Ryoji’s past, his family and his growing-up years. Yaichi takes him in reluctantly and thus begins a relationship of understanding, apprehension and fear not only between Mike and Yaichi but also between Mike and Yaichi’s young daughter, Kana. It is how Kana begins to question and understands Mike and at the same time Yaichi’s overcoming of homophobia is what the manga is all about.

Japan as a country is quite conservative when it comes to the question of homosexuals. It isn’t easy to talk about it in the open – more so in traditional societies of Japan. Maybe that is why this manga is needed now more than ever. Tagame explores each aspect – alienation, small incidents of homophobia, questions about the relationship that wasn’t mainstream and the differences of perception between the East and the West tenderly and with much insight.

There are multiple viewpoints, which is great because he then doesn’t give only one point of view and leave it at that. It also talks of how relationships can alter feelings and how life as it goes along, gives you the opportunity to keep embracing the new, no matter how different it might be. The story is beautiful and the characters are so well-rounded.

This book is definitely for those who want to understand what the LGBT people face, no matter how basic it seems in the book. This could however be the perfect guide and also not just for adults but children as well. “My Brother’s Husband” embraces differences and talks of cultural clashes at the same time. I cannot wait to read the second volume soon.

The Gods Lie. by Kaori Ozaki

Title: The Gods Lie.
Author: Kaori Ozaki
Publisher: Vertical Comics
ISBN: 978-1942993360
Genre: Manga, Graphic Novel
Pages: 216
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

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This was the first book read this month and it has stuck and how. I never thought a Manga could leave me all emotional and almost in tears, but this one did and in the most wondrous way. “The Gods Lie” is about everything I think, as you are growing-up, it is also more than just a coming of age tale and yet the innocence and charm of the book isn’t gone at all, no matter how dire the circumstances. There is always some hope and light at the end of the tunnel and maybe that is why I could connect with this read.

Natsuru Nanao is a 6th grader who lives with his mom, loves soccer and isn’t what you’d call the popular kid in school or maybe he is. Enter Rio Suzumura and the both of them have an unlikely friendship, given how different they are. The soccer coach changes and Natsuru hates the new coach (there are several instances) and decides to not to go soccer camp. In all of this, he ends up staying over at Rio’s house with her kid brother. He does find it strange to see these two children living alone but then secrets start tumbling out of the closet – including a dark one which will test his love for Rio.

That in short is the plot of the book. It is a coming-of-age story for sure but there is so much more to it – the harsh realities of modern life, how one just hangs on to hope no matter what, and of course the bittersweetness of first love. It is a short-read. There is not much dialogue but I think when you are dealing this strongly with emotions, the need for dialogues doesn’t really arise. At the same time, you are vested in the story of Natsuru and Rio, that you just want it all to be fine for them. That to me is the power of a great book. When it engages you to this extent. I can’t recommend this book enough. Do read it.

Adrian and the Tree of Secrets – Story by Hubert & Illustrations by Marie Caillou

Title: Adrian and the Tree of Secrets
Story by Hubert
Illustrations by Marie Caillou
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
ISBN: 978-1551525563
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 128
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

This book is for anyone who has had a problem fitting in while growing up. When you know that you aren’t like what most people are and yet cannot tell a soul. I love coming of age books and more so when they are in the graphic more and especially more so if it is about being gay and coming out as well – more to yourself than anyone else and “Adrian and the Tree of Secrets” is just the kind of book that you need if you are struggling with it. It is the perfect graphic novel for teenagers struggling with their sexuality or even not – maybe they just will come to know who they really are.

Adrian’s experiences as a teen gay boy are universal. We have all gone through it – been that road – not only for LGBT teens but also the straight ones – to know oneself and to make peace with it is not easy – no matter what your orientation. There is also the angle of bullying at school and how Adrian meets someone special and what happens thereon. At the same time there is Adrian’s mom who is a devout Catholic – you get the drift, don’t you? Well, this in short is the plot of the graphic novel.

The story by Hubert and the illustrations by Marie Caillou go superbly hand in hand. The graphic panels are sparse and minimal and that lends to the story in more ways than one. I will not talk about the ending or else I would be spoiling it for you. The story is touching, will touch a nerve and I hope will make you see the LGBTQ community differently, because at the end of the day we are all the same kind of people looking for the one true thing: love.