Superb. A rigorous, vulnerable book on a subject that is too often neglected.

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A JOURNEY THROUGH AMERICAN LONELINESS

An exploration of loneliness, the troubling ways we’ve studied it, and the subtle ways we strain to avoid it.

Radtke’s second graphic memoir feels almost custom-made for the social-distancing era: She explores our need for connection and touch (“skin hunger” is the psychological term) and the negative social and personal effects of isolation. But the book is a much broader and deeply affecting study of loneliness, uncovering the host of ways our craving for community manifests itself in ways that are sometimes quirky and sometimes terrifying. Laugh tracks on sitcoms, for instance, offer a sense of communal feeling within a cold medium; so, too, did the Web 1.0 sites and chatrooms Radtke obsessed over, where strangers laid out their private thoughts and fears. The anxiety runs deep: We crave reports of mass shooters that say the perpetrator was a loner because it satisfies our need to not associate with them. “The collective branding of mass killers is a clumsy act of self-preservation,” she writes. In clean, graceful renderings and a constricted color palette, Radtke expresses her own experiences with loneliness, as a child and in relationships, and gets people to open up about theirs. Along the way, she discovered unusual approaches to combatting loneliness—e.g., a hotline that elderly people can call to have someone to talk to. The author also writes about the cruel experiments psychologist Harry Harlow conducted on monkeys in the 1950s to debunk the belief that children shouldn’t be emotionally coddled. Harlow himself lived a troubled, isolated life, and Radtke wonders if he projected his anxiety upon the animals he tormented in the name of science. If so, how much of our own fear of isolation do we project on the world? Throughout, Radtke is an engaging and thoughtful guide through our fear of being alone.

Superb. A rigorous, vulnerable book on a subject that is too often neglected.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4806-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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An accessible, informative journey through complex issues during turbulent times.

WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD

Immersion journalism in the form of a graphic narrative following a Syrian family on their immigration to America.

Originally published as a 22-part series in the New York Times that garnered a Pulitzer for editorial cartooning, the story of the Aldabaan family—first in exile in Jordan and then in New Haven, Connecticut—holds together well as a full-length book. Halpern and Sloan, who spent more than three years with the Aldabaans, movingly explore the family’s significant obstacles, paying special attention to teenage son Naji, whose desire for the ideal of the American dream was the strongest. While not minimizing the harshness of the repression that led them to journey to the U.S.—or the challenges they encountered after they arrived—the focus on the day-by-day adjustment of a typical teenager makes the narrative refreshingly tangible and free of political polemic. Still, the family arrived at New York’s JFK airport during extraordinarily political times: Nov. 8, 2016, the day that Donald Trump was elected. The plan had been for the entire extended family to move, but some had traveled while others awaited approval, a process that was hampered by Trump’s travel ban. The Aldabaans encountered the daunting odds that many immigrants face: find shelter and employment, become self-sustaining quickly, learn English, and adjust to a new culture and climate (Naji learned to shovel snow, which he had never seen). They also received anonymous death threats, and Naji wanted to buy a gun for protection. He asked himself, “Was this the great future you were talking about back in Jordan?” Yet with the assistance of selfless volunteers and a community of fellow immigrants, the Aldabaans persevered. The epilogue provides explanatory context and where-are-they-now accounts, and Sloan’s streamlined, uncluttered illustrations nicely complement the text, consistently emphasizing the humanity of each person.

An accessible, informative journey through complex issues during turbulent times.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-30559-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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