Tag Archives: Drawn and Quarterly

Year of the Rabbit by Tian Veasna. Translated from the French by Helge Dascher.

Year of the Rabbit by Tian Veasna Title: Year of the Rabbit
Author: Tian Veasna
Translated from the French by Helge Dascher
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
ISBN: 978-1770463769
Genre: Graphic Memoir
Pages: 380
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

History is witness to totalitarian regimes. Regimes that are autocratic, xenophobic, paranoid, and highly regressive. Khmer Rouge was one such regime that ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. They murdered hundreds of thousands of their perceived opponents, and also tortured and killed citizens, under the pretext of creating a better world, where everyone was equal. The Cambodian genocide led to the death of 1.5 to 2 million people in that time period.

Life under the regime was tough. Everything was out of bounds – culture, art, schools, hospitals, banking, and currency. What ruled the roost was agriculture. The ruling body was called the Angkar, which took all major decisions.

“Year of the Rabbit” is a story of a family in the times of Khmer Rouge. Tian Veasna was born just three days after the Rouge takeover in Cambodia, and this book is the story of his family journeying from Phnom Penh in the hope of freedom.

The book is universal in its theme of freedom and what it means to live under a regime that has no empathy or humanity. Isn’t this what is being seen throughout the world right now? Even after decades of autocrats being and behaving in a manner that is harmful to the state, yet no one learns. The same mistakes are repeated. But, back to the book.

Despite all this, there were times I smiled through the book because Veasna also shows us the compassion of humans. Of how his family and relatives were treated with kindness by some along the way, and how at the same time, they lost some family. “Year of the Rabbit” shows us how horror becomes the everyday living, the routine, and that is scary enough. It shows us both sides – of blind faith in a person or organization, and at the same time the sparks of hope that things will get better.

The drawings are clear and precise. The stories are told from various family members’ perspectives, so you might tend to get lost sometimes, but the family tree given at the beginning is handy.

1975 Cambodia till 1979 Cambodia wasn’t an easy place to live in. I haven’t read much about that time in reference to the place and what happened. I had heard of Khmer Rouge but didn’t know enough. I am glad this book was published and brought these stories to light. Read “Year of the Rabbit”. You won’t be disappointed at all.

Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim. Translated from the Korean by Janet Hong.

Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim Title: Grass
Author: Keum Suk Gendry-Kim
Translated from the Korean by Janet Hong
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
ISBN: 9781770463622
Genre: Nonfiction, Graphic Memoir
Pages: 480
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

 

Before reading Grass, I wasn’t aware of “comfort women”. I wasn’t aware of how they were treated by Japanese soldiers. These women were largely Korean and were forced into sexual slavery during the Japanese Occupation of Korea before and during World War II. This is the account of how the atrocity of war ruins women’s lives – no matter the country, no matter the place – the suffering of women is universal. Men go to battle. Women get raped. Men go to battle. Women must bear all consequences.

Grass is the story of a Korean girl named Okseon Lee (becoming Granny Lee Ok-sun) – from her childhood to how she became a comfort woman to depicting the cost of war and the importance of peace. The “comfort woman” experience was most traumatic for Korean women that took place from 1910 to 1945, till they were liberated from the Japanese.

This book is painstakingly honest and brutal. It moves the reader but does not take away from the story and the truth, as should be the case. It is as I said before a woman’s story as a survivor – undergoing kidnapping, abuse, and rape in time of war and imperialism.

Grass opens at a time in Granny Lee Ok-sun’s life when she travels back home to Korea in 1996, having spent fifty-five years as a wife and a mother in China. Kim’s interviews with Granny is what forms the base of this book. Some memories surface clearly, some don’t, and yet it doesn’t take away from the book at all.

To tell such a story through the graphic medium doesn’t reduce the significance or the emotional quotient of the narrative. I found myself most moved so many times in the course of this read. Just the idea that these women were not given the agency to think or feel for themselves, and treated with such brutality, made me think of PTSD and how they didn’t even have the vocabulary to explain this or understand what they were going through. All they knew was they had to be alive, no matter what. In the hope of either being saved by strangers, or finding ways to escape “comfort houses”, to get away from conditions where getting a proper meal is a luxury, where your child is taken away from you, where men constantly enter and exit at will, and ultimately to feel human.

The artwork by Kim is brilliant. The scenes that are tough to digest are portrayed with such beauty – in the sense that it exists, hovers above you as you read it, and yet somehow makes you understand, keeping the dignity of the women. I think also to a large extent, the book is what it is because of the translation – which is so nuanced and on point when it comes to brevity and communicating what it has to.

Grass is a book that needs to be read to understand how people get away with the utmost damage to the human soul. Given the fight of haves and have-nots, of gender differences, of how unequal society is, this book should be read, and reread to understand where violence and also empathy comes from.

Market Day by James Sturm

Market Day by James Sturm Title: Market Day
Author: James Sturm
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
ISBN: 978-1897299975
Genre: Graphic novel
Pages: 96
Source: Borrowed read
Rating: 5/5

So this graphic novel came heavily recommended to me by @mentalexotica and I absolutely and most certainly take her recommendations very seriously – more so when it comes to graphic novels. She doesn’t miss them and is bang on with what she likes or loves most of the time. I read the book in half an hour (it was her copy), but the memory of it will stay and linger for longer than that.

“Market Day” as the title suggests is about a day in the market. It is about art and commerce as seen in the market by a Jewish rug-maker in early twentieth-century.

This graphic novel goes deeper than this for sure. The story of Mendleman in an Eastern-European village is exquisite and told with such finesse by James Sturm. The palette is sepia-infused and doesn’t change and yet the changes (if any) are clear. Sturm takes the reader on Mendleman’s journey through the market as he plans to sell his rugs and leads nowhere. Along the way, he meets his friends, is unable to sell his rugs, gets drunk and decides to sell his loom and do something else.

What is most touching and empathic at the same time, is that he will become a father soon – perhaps the next morning and he is in a state of utter confusion – he has to provide for his family and is most certainly disillusioned by what he sees around him and yet he must continue soldering on – if he wants to that is.

The illustrations are beautiful and stark. The pull between life and death, nurture and a sense of nonchalance, the need to keep going and the longing to give it all up – the contrasts are beautifully illustrated and at some point it ceases to be just the story of one man – but of all of us – because we all seem to have experienced it one time or the other: The sense of alienation, to give it all up and yet to keep going because something or the other always will provide for us, in some way or the other. I urge you to read this. Strongly at that.

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki Title: SuperMutant Magic Academy
Author: Jillian Tamaki
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
ISBN: 978-1770461987
Genre: Comics, Graphic Novel
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I love graphic novels. The genre makes me smile all the time. Well, mostly all the time. There are times when I go all morose as well, but that’s only because of the plot and nothing more than that. So when I received a copy of Jillian Tamaki’s new graphic novel, “SuperMutant Magic Academy” by the publisher, I was overjoyed.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 1

What is the book about?

It is true to its title. It is about Mutants, who are in an academy, and of course who are magical. That being said, they are almost like any other teenager – bursting with puberty, adolescence making them think otherwise and going through the same old pangs of growing up and deciding whether to love or not and how does one then become popular.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 2

Why should you read this book?

There is humour in the book, loads of it and also sprinkled with a whole lot of irreverence and not to forget their paranormal abilities that are juxtaposed brilliantly against the everyday teen concerns. The world is but surely familiar and yet it is the abilities that come along in the book, that take you by surprise and sometimes shock.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 3

I cannot talk about individual characters because there are so many of them, but needless to say that you might just fall in love with each of them and their little quirks. It is a mash-up of Hogwarts and Gossip Girl (I know some of you might be cringing but that’s what it is and it is a delightful read at that).

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 4

Tamaki’s illustrations are almost perfect and invite you to a world like none other. Her characterization is sharp and full of detailing, page after page and that is what also will appeal to the serious reader in some of you. Tamaki has a knack to understand the psyche of her characters and to bring each nuance to life through her illustrations and story-telling capacity. There are just right enough doses of angst, hopelessness and so much hope at times that you will wonder where that came from in the book.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 5

“SuperMutant Magic Academy” will take you through vignettes of every single character and their kinks – from Trixie, a dinosaur girl to Everlasting Boy who is immortal, to Wendy who has cat ears and also you will meet Marsha, the grumpy friend who carries a secret torch for Wendy and many more, equally weird and strange. The thing though is that you will fall in love with each and every one of them and hope that the book doesn’t end. I could not stop thinking about them long after I had finished the book and I am almost certain that I will go back to it. This is also the kind of book that can be enjoyed by anyone – from teenagers to the middle-aged readers. I wish there is a sequel in line for this one.

Affiliate Link:

Buy Supermutant Magic Academy from Flipkart.com

SuperMutant Magic Academy

Good-Bye by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Good-Bye by Yoshihiro Tatsumi Title: Good-Bye
Author: Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
ISBN: 978-1897299371
Genre: Graphic Novel, Manga
Pages: 208
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Manga is an art that grows on you. It is also an art form that makes you appreciate the beauty of stillness and subtlety. So when there are graphic novels to be read, there is also Manga which I feel is quite different and a genre of its own than being classified under Graphic Novels. Tatsumi happened to me when I was browsing through Landmark, Bombay, about ten years ago with a very dear friend. That was another book. This time I spotted him at Blossom and could not have been more excited. I knew I had to buy it and I was not wrong about it at all.

“Good-Bye” is a collection of short stories told in Manga. Tatsumi is perhaps one writer that just brings out the best when it comes to Manga, or at least from all that I have read. Tatsumi in this collection portrays a Japanese society – during WWII, in the aftermath of the atomic bomb and post the war.

The stories are about trapped protagonists, who seem to have no choice at all. They are stuck in circumstances that are beyond their control and they have to make sense of the world around them. Right from “Hell” which is about post-Hiroshima attack to “Good-Bye” which is a story of a woman trying to survive after the war, by using her body – the stories are real and laced with pathos and sometimes tragic humour.

What struck me the most was how beautifully Tatsumi managed to bring out the emotions in the entire book. From anger to helplessness to pure love and longing, everything is meticulously laid out for the reader to savour and add in a bit of his or her angst as well. All in all, this book is meant to be relished, page by page, illustration by illustration.

Affiliate Link:

Buy Good