"How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?": Women and Jewish American Identity in Contemporary Graphic Memoirs. By Tahneer Oksman. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. xiii + 274 pp.
In the last two decades, the graphic narrative form has taken a central place in the American literary landscape. At the same time, graphic novels and memoirs by Jewish authors and with Jewish themes have also proliferated. Perhaps this is unsurprising, as the history of comics has been inextricably tied to the Jewish experience in America, from the wartime superheroes of Siegel, Shuster, and Eisner to MAD Magazine's transgressive comedic sensibility. Since Art Spiegelman won the 1992. Pulitzer Prize for Mans, his graphic memoir about his father's Holocaust experience, the graphic narrative form has also been particularly associated with Jewish history and culture.
Likewise, scholarship on the Jewish graphic novel has also accelerated, and Samantha Baskind and Ranen Omer-Sherman's 2010 The Jewish Graphic Novel collected a variety of contemporary scholarship on the form. However, less attention has been given to the place of women, as both authors and subjects. Tahneer Oksman's "How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?" is an important intervention in this scholarly landscape, focusing on the intersections between gender and Jewish identity in the graphic narrative format.
Oksman explores intersectional identities in the autobiographical comics of several contemporary female Jewish artists. She classifies all of these authors as "postassimilated," a term that is meant to describe the way that assimilation and its effects are no longer central to the work of these artists, although they may be influenced by or engage with the effects of assimilation (3). The theoretical framework Oksman builds in order to read the complex and dynamic representation of postassimilated Jewish-American-female identity in these comics is centered on a concept she calls "dis-affiliation," which is not a static condition, but rather "a process" that "entails a complex negotiation" (2).
It is through the lens of "dis-affiliation" that Oksman examines questions of Jewish and gender identity in the graphic memoirs and diaries she analyzes. In particular, the notion of dis-affiliation is useful in understanding these intersectional identities as shifting rather than fixed, and existing synchronically. The medium of the comic, or "sequential art," is particularly well-suited to...