"review" · Children's · Picture book · recommend · wondermous

{picture book} simply & painfully beautiful

my fathers arms are a boat coverMy Father’s Arms are a Boat

by Stein Erik Lunde; illus. Øyvind Torseter

translated from Norwegian by Kary Dickson

Enchanted Lion Books 2012

orig. Eg Kan Ikkje Sove No published by Det Norske Samlaget (2008)

It’s never been so quiet.

Unable to sleep, a young boy climbs into his father’s arms. Feeling the warmth and closeness of his dad, he asks about the birds. He asks about the foxes.

He asks about his mom. (jacket copy)

My Father’s Arms are a Boat begins with a boy unable to sleep, which is hardly strange. Nor is it, at first, remarkable that his father, still dressed for the day, is sitting alone in the living room. The boy is worried about the fox stealing bread left out for the bird, which is hardly a strange preoccupation of a restless child, and it is precious how the father would reassure his son about the goings on of the world outside at nighttime (dark time).

MyFathersArms6-largeA subtle and yet consciously painful awareness of loss has already seeped in by the time  the boy tells us what granny says about the red birds, before the boy asks about his mom. The loaf beside the colorful child’s swing in the first image, the external shot of the house, looks lonely—uninhabited—but mind the silhouettes. The boy’s room in the next image is vast and cold, not in the least cozy. And note where the bed is; as well as the boy is curled the edge, uncovered. In the third image, the father, amidst the domestic space, holds a mug and a posture that could read drowsy or sad and unable to sleep (unwilling to sleep). He is alone.

MyFathersArms7small1_2His aloneness didn’t strike me at all, nor that the boy had not sought out a female figure. In the topsy-turvy room of the next image, the father is the boat and this moment makes all the sense in the world. The subject matter of the accompanying text is about tomorrow and sleep—but what should be so slanted and oddly planed about such an image for a conversation with a boy who is unable to sleep like many children will often experience—we’ve stacks of children’s picture books about this very matter—sleeplessness and/or unwillingness to go to bed.

It’s dark and neither want to be alone.

There is a fox hunting outside, a bright hue against the snow-white landscape.

my fathers arms are a boat pageWe learn of the mother before the father suggests a viewing of the stars. He goes to bundle his son for a trek outdoors. From vast empty rooms to a vast empty outer landscape. The text carries us, the father’s suggestion, his move to continue and brush past that inescapable dawning of the mother’s absences, of their loss.

I look up at the stars.

I look at the moon that looks like a boat.

My dad’s arms are like a boat, too.

One that sails me out into the middle of the yard. The boat stops.

The stars are so far away and yet so close.

‘If you see a shooting star, you can make a wish,’ Daddy says.

‘I know.’

‘But you’ can’t tell anyone what it is.’

‘I know.’

The closing sequences upon returning home are warmer, colorful, more contained in composition. The text reflect the progression of comfort, the movement toward rest. The red birds appear.

My Father’s Arms are a Boat is a quietly powerful book. There is impact in the spare images yet intimate details of the exchanges between father and son. There is nothing easy about this picture book constructed of paper cut out and line work, complex dimensions and layers. The tenderness in the language is breathtaking.

In her Kirkus starred review, Julie Danielson’s concludes that the book is “raw but hopeful. Spare and beautiful. Definitely thought-provoking. It’s not often we see picture books like this, ones unafraid to be contemplative. Or even sad.” –which is appropriate to the subject-matter, isn’t it? Lunde’s and Torseter’s fearlessness in My Father’s Arms are a Boat is something to experience.

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{images belong to Øyvind Torseter}

"review" · Children's · concenter · Picture book · recommend · series

meet annelore parot’s kokeshi

30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aDay Twenty-Four: Kokeshi Kimonos Book 

by Annelore Parot

Chronicle Books, 2011.

kokeshi_kimonos_1“With a padded cover and slickly designed pages, this interactive book introduces traditional kokeshi dolls, popular in Japan. Rendered in manga style, the dolls wear kimonos; readers are invited to help one kokeshi select her kimono, assist another as she samples new hairstyles, and lift flaps to locate another kokeshi’s apartment. With a clean aesthetic and diminutive animal friends throughout, it provides an insider’s view into a gentle world of dress up. All ages. (Sept.)” Publishers Weekly

Browsing the shelves, it wasn’t only that Kimonos was faced outward, but it stood out. You can guess why…and it isn’t only because my eye is drawn to red. Once I had it in hand, I knew it was coming home with me. I love these interactive books. And well, I do love pretty things. Kimonos is pretty. Annelore Parot, is not afraid of color and patterns. Her choices alone recommend a lingering look, but most of the activities require an attention to details.

Kokeshi_Kimono_interior-2-1-475x478

There are games of differentiation and matching and memory. There are lifting flaps and turning of pages that engage the reader/listener interact in the layering of the story. The educational quality includes translations of Japanese words as well as an introduction/exploration of cultural dress and relationships. Playing dress up usually involves a scenario that reflect social/cultural scripts and Parot optimizes this.

Kokeshi-Kimonos-Annelore-Parot-2Kokeshi-Kimonos-Annelore-Parrot-3

{of the bottom image: the two characters in their apartments are who you see when lifting the flap; on the flaps are text.}

We meet different Kokeshi characters in Kimonos, but French author/illustrator Annelore Parot has a series of Kokeshi books and products, Aoki (below) is just one I happened to find on the shelf. There is also a Kokeshi club site. These would have been dangerous for me when Natalya was young.

aoki coverAoiki (a Kokeshi book) by Annelore Parot

Chronicle Books, 2012

“Meet Aoki She may be the smallest Kokeshi, but Aoki’s infectious enthusiasm can make anyone laugh. On her whirlwind trip to Tokyo, she will ride a high-speed train, dance under cherry blossom trees, and visit a zen garden. With sneak-peek flaps, fun die-cuts, and lavish gatefolds, this interactive exploration will enchant Kokeshi fans of all sizes.” –publisher’s comments

aoki4

aoki interiorThere are even more flaps, memory games, translations, and ways to keep the reader/listener on every page. While Parot constructs a story to follow, it is not so tight that the book couldn’t be picked up or set aside depending on time or interest. It could easily work as a quiet activity book, but I think, like Kimonos, this is one to play with together–because one, it is fun; and two, there is no answer key. This one is good for early grade school. It is doll-play. But even so, use this as an excuse to interact with that lovely child in your life.

{*books are translated into English; images belong to Annelore Parot}

"review" · fiction · Lit · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · short story · wondermous

after the quake: stories by haruki murakami

After the Quake: stories by Haruki Murakami

Translated from Japanese by Jay Rubin

Edition read: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Contents: ufo in kushiro; landscape with flatiron; all god’s children can dance; thailand; super-frog saves tokyo; honey pie.

I had yet to read anything by the highly esteemed Murakami and Sean was looking for a new(to him) author to read. He picked up After Dark at the Library and I picked up After the Quake.

The six stories in Haruki Murakamis mesmerizing collection are set at the time of the catastrophic 1995 Kobe earthquake, when Japan became brutally aware of the fragility of its daily existence. But the upheavals that afflict Murakamis characters are even deeper and more mysterious, emanating from a place where the human meets the inhuman.

An electronics salesman who has been abruptly deserted by his wife agrees to deliver an enigmatic packageand is rewarded with a glimpse of his true nature. A man who has been raised to view himself as the son of God pursues a stranger who may or may not be his human father. A mild-mannered collection agent receives a visit from a giant talking frog who enlists his help in saving Tokyo from destruction. As haunting as dreams, as potent as oracles, the stories in After the Quake are further proof that Murakami is one of the most visionary writers at work today. ~publisher’s comments.

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<a bit of a ramble>

“I call in Landscape with Flatiron. I finished it three days ago. It’s just a picture of an iron in a room.”

“Why’s that so tough to explain?”

“Because it’s not really an iron.”

She looked up at him. “The iron is not an iron?”

“That’s right.”

“Meaning it stands fro something else?”

“Probably.”

“Meaning you can only paint it if you use something else to stand for it?” (“landscape with flatiron,” 51-2)

Such a literary piece longs for something equally well articulated, but I am at a loss. I thought to imitate several quotes found in response to Haruki Murakami’s After the Quake, but I can hardly interpret their meaning. I’m still collecting the thoughts, sifting emotions, looking up words.

There are several pieces of Writing that I feel I need a better education before approaching them. And just as many after I’ve met them.  I know there are things I feel I am missing in After the Quake—the cultural education is a big one. Then there are the Literary and Musical references. Fortunately, Murakami’s stories have that magical quality that speaks to the soul of the Reader no matter their ignorance of Literature, Jazz, or Japan.

The style of the writing, the precise language of the short story, the clipped sentences, the forward momentum that pulls you through the foreign climes of his imagination and his reality—it is strangely easy to sink into Murakami’s portraits. So much was foreign to me and yet I was not alienated from the hauntingly familiar.

In Murakami’s stories anything seems possible and probable; which is admittedly discomfiting. The first story “ufo in kushiro” begins fairly normal before ending strangely. It is a nice introductory piece. The two of the six stories that resonated most deeply were “landscape with flatiron” and “thailand.” I couldn’t really say why. I am left with feelings over words, and I am uncomfortable remaining there. I would like to articulate how and why.

In after the quake there is the sense of helplessness, desperation, and the vast hollow of loneliness evoked. Life should have changed after a devastating earthquake, but why in such drastic yet mundane ways?—and without easily packaged explanation? The true echo of trauma in after the quake isn’t the resolve to create and fulfill bucket lists or prescriptive protocol. Murakami’s characters are stumbling through the fog, seeking to fill “a chunk of air” (6) with something substantial—like authentic relationships. They seek a freedom from the constraint of conventions suddenly illuminated—or maybe a return. Will the risks of extending one’s self to another (no matter the act that precipitates it) find reward? Despite the uncertainties in life, lives are propelled forward in both its mindless and deeply contemplative choices. The last story in after the quake “honey pie” presents the greatest glimmer of hope. But like all the previous pieces, Murakami leaves the ending open, the future teetering.  The Reader is left to hope, the final and desperate act left to both the characters and the Reader.

“From now on, little by little, you must prepare yourself to face death. If you devote all of your future energy to living, you will not be able to die well. You must begin to shift gears, a little at a time. Living and dying are, in a sense, of equal value.” (105, “thailand”)

It is apt that the Kobe Earthquake is the only continuous character throughout the 6 stories. A quietly lurking character, it represents an event unexplainable, uncontrollable, un-preventable.  It is less about the vulnerability of our mortality, but more the vulnerability of a life being lived.

“She could feel the man’s fear and hope and despair as if they were her own; she could sense the very pounding of his heart as he hovered on the brink of death. Most important of all, though, was the fact that the man was fundamentally longing for death. She knew that for sure. She couldn’t explain how she knew, but she knew it from the start. Death was really what he wanted. He knew that it was the right ending for him. And yet he had to go on fighting with all his might. He had to fight against an overwhelming adversary in order to survive. What most shook Junko was this deep-rooted contradiction.” (“landscape with flatiron,” 33)

When Junko was contemplating Jack London’s short story “To Build a Fire,” her teacher thought her mistaken, but after the quake validates Junko’s response. There are many a fascinating and unsettling deep-rooted contradiction in the human person, in the human existence.

Murakami’s is the realist exploration I can handle, steeped in surrealist encounters, melding landscapes of varying degrees onto a canvas, illustrating the complexity of relationships internal and/or external. I have no idea what he is saying, but it is all too clear to me what is showing me.

 “For a long time, [Jack London] thought he was going to die by drowning in the sea. He was absolutely sure of it. He’d slip and fall into the ocean at night, and nobody would notice, and he’d drown.” [….] “In a sense, he was right. He did drown alone in a dark sea. He became an alcoholic. He soaked his body in his own despair—right to the core—and he died in agony. Premonitions can stand for something else sometimes. And the thing they stand for can be a lot more intense than reality. That’s the scariest thing about having a premonition. Do you see what I mean?”

Junko thought about it for a while. She did not see what he meant.

“I’ve never once thought about how I was going to die,” she said. “I can’t think about it. I don’t even know how I’m going to live.”

Miyake gave a nod. “I know what you mean,” he said. “But there’s such a thing as a way of living that’s guided by the way a person’s going to die.”

“Is that how you’re living?” she asked.

I’m not sure. It seems that way sometimes.” (“landscape with flatiron,” 50-1, the emphasis mine).

Neither come up with a solid plan for living or dying by morning. The only comfort found or answer made available lies within the connection between the two, in the companionship. There are journeys with few (if any) arrivals, journeys filled with moments of impotence (both actual and metaphoric). Many of the characters, whether protagonists or no, are quite pathetic; which, of course, does not deny the Reader a connection. I am guessing Murakami frustrates both the plot-driven and the character-driven Readers equally, while simultaneously lulling them into a deep affection. Perhaps he illuminates and frees the Reader from a few necessary constraints, as well.

"review" · comics/graphic novels · recommend

Three

 The Color of Earth; The Color of Water; The Color of Heaven

by Kim Dong Hwa; translated from the Korean by Lauren Na)

First Second editions, 2009. (originally The Story of Life on the Golden Fields, Volumes 1, 2, & 3, 2003)

Found perusing the First Second site, and borrowed from the Library.

In a timeless village in rural Korea, young Ehwa and her widowed mother live quietly together, best friends and confidantes. With each year that passes, Ehwa blossoms into a young woman as the spring rains bring a new glow to the verdant landscape around them.

More changes come with the spring: a chance meeting with a young monk stirs new emotions in Ehwa’s heart, and a mysterious artist becomes the first man to catch her mother’s eyes since Ehwa’s father died. As Ehwa discovers love and desire for the first time, her mother learns to open her heart again.

Kim Dong Hwa’s graceful drawings and highly poetic language create an intimate portrait of two women who grow and change but never love each other any less. The Color of Earth is at once a daring tale of sexual awakening, and a tender story about a daughter and her mother. ~ inside cover, The Color of Earth.

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In the second installment, beautiful young Ehwa continues her journey towards womanhood while her widowed mother’s affair with a traveling scholar intensifies. Ehwa, discovering what it is to love, finds herself keeping secrets from her mother for the first time in her life. (inside cover, The Color of Water)

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Ehwa, now a confident young woman, finds herself in the same maddening situation as her mother: waiting for a man. Her mother hopes for the return of her roaming lover, and Ehwa, in turn, gazes up at the same moon as her fiancé […] who has gone to sea to seek his fortune so that he can marry her. (inside cover, The Cover of Heaven)

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I had decided to read The Color Trilogy by Kim Dong Hwa (translated from Korean by Lauren Na) after seeing it on the First Second website, but I was somewhat dreading it. I chose it because wanted to balance out my juvenile comics with more adult fare and expand my cultural horizons. But the idea of following a mother/daughter drama through the pangs of budding sexuality and a widow’s loneliness did not appeal. I received the first one from the Library and flipped through the pages, found I liked the Artwork, took a deep breath, and fell head-long.  Yes, one should have all three on hand, because after one, you’ll want to continue into the next.

The Color of Water, 307.

“There’s no difference between the way a man or woman yearns for companionship. It’s because they’re both human that they can say wise and unwise things alike.” ~Ehwa’s mother (The Color of Heaven, 66).

Please do not mistake the trilogy for Chick Lit, nor is it meant only for the female gender.  Hwang Min-Ho writes in his critique at the end of the book “Painting the Lives of Women with Rain and Flowers:”

The Color of Earth became a turning point in the history of manhwa [(the equivalent of the Japanese manga)]. It was the first time that a book drawn in the sunjung style enjoyed such unparalleled success with an adult audience composed in equal measure of men and women. […] The author’s markedly feminist approach is noteworthy not only because he is a man, but also because many of his readers are as well. […] That chauvinism is evident among the villagers of The Color of Earth, who gossip about the young widow, comparing her to a beetle, and among the little boys, who tell Ehwa that anyone without male genitals is deformed. Fortunately, positive masculine characters like the pictograph artist and the young monk Chung-Myung help preserve a certain balance.” (314-15)

While Ehwa and her mother occupy most of the narrative, the young monk, “Picture Man,” and others feature as well; they, in more than one way, create a balance in the book.

The Color of Earth begins with a pair of young men watching beetles mate. This is where the young girl-child Ehwa comes upon them and overhears them talking about her widowed mother, the tavern owner, and how she is like a female beetle, “The beetle’s a bug that’ll take any mate.” /“Then I suppose them beetles are just like the tavern owner—little Ehwa’s mom.”/“I heard the village elders say that Ehwa’s mom will have anyone that’ll take her.” (15) Ehwa runs off only to stumble across two boys having a contest to see who can pee further. A contemplation of anatomy ensues, in which a confused Ehwa, in an effort not to appear deformed, claims she has a bigger gochoo then theirs—and no, they can’t see it. The first chapter sets the tone for the rest of the series: Ehwa is young and naïve and her innocence makes for awkward (and sometimes humorous) exchanges. The majority of the males in her village are coarse. Ehwa’s mother proves somewhat vulnerable, but is determined and wise. And mother and daughter are very close (as the bathing scene punctuates).

I didn’t know what a gochoo was, but Lauren Na provides asterisks and notes at the bottom of the pages for words she chooses not to replace in translation, e.g. *Gochoo is the word for chili pepper and is also a euphemism for penis. I figured out the euphemism part. In other notes, Na highlights a cultural significance a foreign reader would likely not know, but needs to know to enrich the text. The text and images are laden with context, subtext, and symbols.

The Color of Water

The Color of Earth tells the story of two women at different stages of life, and we come to understand them through the mysteries of nature, rain, and flowers” (Min-Ho, 318). In the “Painting the Lives of Women with Rain and Flowers,” Min-Ho touches on the use of flowers and rain as metaphors, and Lauren Na provides some cues, but the text is not insurmountable on its own. It was, however, a bit overwhelming at times.  Very little is spoken in a forthright manner. What is, is usually depicted as coarse; Ehwa’s friend Bongsoon is the very embodiment of transparency and while Ehwa might come across as a prude (and quite humorously and painfully naïve), Bongsoon is crass—big mouthed, big motioned, wild-edged with her escaping tendrils. There were occasions I had to re-read a more subtle exchange to feel confident in my interpretation—Having the images helped, of course.

Text and Image fuel one another in the way a good comic requires. The above page is lovely in composition and read without context, but the poignancy that squeezes my heart even now, is created in the building of story.  We gain a great deal of the story through dialogue and personal musings [where I believe all are spoken aloud; which makes the reading feel like I am watching anime (the disembodied narrative)]. And the illustrations carry their own import; the silent frames weighted—speaking volumes in its own way.

The Color of Earth. (the artwork combines intricate detail with the looser cartoon forms, used at will and quite effectively.)

Some parts of the story and some of the sequences may startle the more –er—sheltered reader. There is more than one depiction of masturbation, masturbation not only an occupation of males. The sexual awakenings in the Trilogy find different venues and company, even within the purview of a singular character. In some instances the awareness is less than ideal, and others sweetly unfolded. There are gorgeous examples of homoeroticism, if you’ve ever wondered how that was supposed to work successfully.

The novels create an unusual closeness between Ehwa and her mother, they are all each other has. The mother doesn’t seem to have an older woman and thus has to negotiate her daughter’s growing up alongside her. She blushing admits to perhaps sharing too much of her own life with Ehwa. She also has a protectiveness of her child that is criticized in The Color of Water that furthers the differences of the pair from their environs. Still, there are secrets kept and arguments and misunderstandings, Kim Dong Hwa skillfully guides the reader through the oft volatile adolescence of Ehwa. Even in the best of families, the novel seems to say. And though Ehwa and her mother are not even remotely “traditional” they are the best of family.

The Color of Earth

Ehwa and her mother are obviously the central focus of the Color Trilogy but Kim Dong Hwa develops other characters who allow for compare and contrast, who reveal different paths, different blooms, who function as stepping stones along the Ehwa’s assent into womanhood. Some are more Typical than others, and some are very much enjoyed. Kim Dong Hwa has a good instinct for timing and drama, inserting well-tuned comedy to counterbalance the weightier moments. He moves the story along at a surprisingly quick clip without sacrificing the ability for the novel to emote. He also culminates the trilogy in a way that isn’t solely focused on Ehwa and her mother. The third part of an ever present triangle still presides. Love is in the air, and we are all susceptible to its longing. And we are all sensual beings.

Kim Dong Hwa finds a way to maintain an intimate novel despite its incredible scope, its numerous inclusions. He develops an atmosphere that draws a body out of isolation, into memory and companionship with the very human conditions the characters portray: the discovery of the human body, its sexuality, its needs and desires, the sometimes clumsy always beautiful ways of growing into physical and emotional maturity—how it all affects the people who surround you. Nature isn’t the only impetus with a profound remark upon a changing body. Kim Dong Hwa skillfully relays the remarks family, friends, and society make as well.

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Note: Both The Color of Water and The Color of Heaven have a Reading Group Guide that would provide discussion questions and an “About Graphic Novels” where a guide to reading one is included. This trilogy would make for a good book club read–so much fuel for good conversation.

"review" · comics/graphic novels · fiction · Lit · non-fiction · recommend · Tales

Stassen’s Deogratias

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by Jean-Philippe Stassen

translation/introduction by Alexis Siegel

First Second Books, 2006.

(originally published in French by Dupuis in 2000)

96 pages, tradepaper

Pulled from my list of First Second books that looked intriguing (and was available at the Library)

“We are in Rwanda in the days leading to a swift and gruesome genocide; the world will watch and do nothing. In less than a hundred days, eight hundred thousand human beings will be hacked to death.

Moment by moment, piece by piece, J.P. Stassen skillfully builds a masterpiece, an unforgettable tale that probes man’s inhumanity to man. His eloquence, his storytelling power, and his sheer poetry elevate this harrowing story to the rank of a testimonial to one of the darkest chapters in recent human history.

With great skill and understanding, Stassen’s Deogratias takes us back and forth in time, showing only before and after the killings — and inexorably revealing the grip of madness and horror on one young boy and his country.

Difficult, beautiful, honest, and heartbreaking, this is a masterwork by a major artist of our time.” ~First Second dust jacket

The images are haunting. The story disturbing. And the lingering and deepening sadness followed me for hours after the read; and into this next day.

Jean-Philippe Stassen’s Deogratis begins in the present with the young man Deogratis, ragged, torn, and unwanted. But before he can be rudely dismissed we are pulled into the story by someone who remembers Deogratis from before the Genocide. Who Deogratis was before slowly unfolds through flashbacks and present-day conversations; other characters are similarly handled. It isn’t until the nearing end that you begin to think about which characters we have only met in the past.The shifting into the past is wonderfully placed, subtle in its transition, but not so impossible to detect as to create disruptive confusion. Deogratis, kempt and spotless white clothing before, eyes not in that perpetual widened gaze of horror. Yet the subtlety (no change in panel shape or outline or tint) compresses the before and after into a constant present state of existing. The middle is there, too; saturating even the before. Some characters would separate out the before, but Deogratias is less sure. Bosco: “before [the whites] came, before they sowed the seeds of division, before they enslaved us, we lived peacefully here…” Deogratias, head down and looking away, “…in a land of milk and honey.” (19)

Stassen would educe a humanitarian response for another human being. He writes/draws human characters in this fictional portrayal. Stassen doesn’t contrive a saccharine innocence so as to later butcher it and evoke stainless tears. All the characters are flawed in a significantly human way. Still, there is an innocence/vulnerability at the center, in the living of the characters who are victims. They are surrounded and then enshrouded in the darkness of politicians, military men, religious leaders, anyone in power; notably all adult men.

There are moments when Degratias is visually transformed into a dog, yet Stassen doesn’t spare the reader the way Art Spiegelman does in Maus I & II. Stassen chose faces for his representatives. And few of the faces are particularly endearing. Stassen chooses a more oblique perspective to distance the reader. He threads mysteries to compel and ease the reader into the revelations in store for them. The story is carefully crafted, gradually revealing more lines than initially anticipated. The metaphors (in dialogue and imagery) find a fullness by book’s end.

Deogratis is mad (both crazy and enraged). He is destroyed and evidently haunted. The recent events seem explanation enough, in the scratched surface of an understanding: he lived through a genocide, he likely lost his young love, he witnessed gruesome things. But the extent of the horror leaves the reader gasping. Stassen goes to great lengths to shove the reader on their naked ass into the icy carnage of Deogratis’ world and Deogratis’ soul. Stassen turned on the burner and we realize too late that the water has begun to boil. The reader cannot escape, nor look away—though I tried; trying to read quickly, swallowing back the bile.

It is grotesque what one human is capable of perpetrating against another human. Whether graphically depicted or strongly inferred, Stassen is determined to touch the sledgehammer to heartstring—and he doesn’t do this gratuitously. Stassen’s beautiful artwork is moved by the necessity to educate and remind, unraveling a terrible untold story.

Does Deogratis find some sense of redemption? I feel like his must be tied up with the whole, and I am fearfully unsure. I longed for a sense of healing.  I long for an understanding. Deogratias? It longs for a memory, not absolution (“It wasn’t a confession!”). The intervention comes too late. The stars that witnessed everything didn’t come down, they only watched and tormented Deogratis with their existence (cold and unyielding and too far away).

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Translator, Alexis Siegel, provides an introduction (“From the Depths”). This is wonderfully helpful in providing a timeline of events leading up to and after the Rwandan Genocide, as well as highlighting key figures. The commentary tries to be fair, but the ways in which the Rwandans (as well as other countries) have been forsaken is all too glaring. The intro helps inform the reader; not to be skipped over or neglected whether read before or after Deogratias.

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Deo gratias (ˈdāō ˈgrätsēəs), exclamation thanks be to God. late 16th century: Latin. ~Oxford English Dictionary.

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My copy is lent from the Library’s TEEN shelf (where my young daughter is prone browse these days). The language is very coarse, the sexual themes are incapable of misunderstanding, and the rendered violence is quite graphic. Something of which to be mindful, if you’ve a young one around who is taking up the habit of picking up the books you are reading. I’ve had to keep this one and David Sedaris’ Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk on the high shelves this week.

“Only a few of the panels depict the actual massacre; still, the ghastly subject matter, sexual themes and coarse language, along with the elliptical narrative structure, restrict this title to a mature audience. Nonetheless, the importance of the story and the heartbreaking beauty of its presentation make it an essential purchase.” Kirkus Reviews

A review by “The Low Road.” Comments by “Guys Lit Wire”.

wiki link. First Second page.