Why is this comic different from all other comics?
You knew I was going to start there, right?
Excuse me ...
Nu, when you going to talk about me?
Ah yes, before I go any further, of course you should start with MAUS and A Contract With God. But today I'd like to take you down a less--trodden path.
First, let's define terms.
These aren't actually graphic novels. These are MEMOIRS. A novel is
a long--form work of literary fiction, either in prose or in pictures. If it's non-fiction, it's not a novel, even if it's graphic. "Graphic Novel" is not a genre. So let's just call them comics.
So what is a "Jewish" comic?
Is it guiltier than other comics? Does it think too much?
I'm going to tell you to start with Miriam Katin's magical books.
"We Are On Our Own, about surviving the Holocaust in Hungary as a little girl.
And my favorite. "Letting It Go." in which she engages with her trauma and baggage about Germany after her son moves to Berlin.
Though I will warn you that reading it destroyed me. It unlocked some very deeply held pain in my body and caused me to cry uncontrollably on the floor of my studio for a half an hour.
Because our recent history is a black hole, and some people know how to reach into it
So that the black hole speaks.
That's quite a gift. This, by the way, is why MAUS is so important.
If you have survivors of any genocidal trauma in your family, you know how hard it is for them to discuss. MAUS speaks for those Holocaust survivors who could not, like my grandparents, so that those who came after could have a glimpse into the hole.
But is it all suffering?
Joann Sfar's "The Rabbi's Cat" is an antidote to all of our Eastern European darkness.
You shtetl Jews are so DOUR
Oh, hi, Rabbi's Cat!
And is notably Sephardic, a fable of 1930's Algeria, in which Jews and Muslims live together, something that's a big dream of mine.
Another Jewish cartoonist to know about is the French satirist Georges Wolinski, murdered in the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
"There is no humour that is Jewish, Black, Irish, Czech, Arabic. There aren't 36 different types of humour. There is just humour. Humour, like fire, water, air, gold, always has the same composition ... Humourists have only one thought, one idea, which is, "I'm nothing and I'm scared'."
His kindly eyes remind me of my grandfather's.
Comics in the US are intimately bound up with Jewish history in the US, and there are numerous books on that topic.
Here are just two to start with.