I subscribe to a weekly magazine, The Week. I like this publication for many reasons, one of them, there is always a section on books, book reviews, recommendations of books, recommendations of new authors, or an author working on something unusual, compelling, historical.
And always a section: Also of Interest, and always 4 books are featured around a specific theme, topic, genre, etc. I love to read, so every week I tear out the 2 pages that have all the book information and I've been reading, reading, reading, all sort of books.
I've never read a graphic novel or a graphic memoir and at last I did. I was intrigued by the title, IMAGINE WANTING ONLY THIS, coupled with my interest and curiosity of the graphics. The author, Kristen Radtke.
I only knew this book by the recommendation in the magazine, the first sentence, Kristen Radtke's remarkable debut is one of the most haunting graphic memoirs I've ever read. This is a quote from the Chicago Tribune writer, Beth Kephart. I looked up a few reviews on Amazon and then put the book on hold at the Jacksonville Library, along with three others.
The book is about many things. The author searching for meaning, the author trying to reckon with grief, the author trying to understand a very unusual and serious medical "heart defect" that is threaded through her family. She travels far to exotic places to try and harness an understanding of life, loss, tragedy, the history of place, people, and our shared connections and disconnections.
I was struck by how distracted I was in trying to appreciate all the graphic components of the memoir, while trying to follow the story. The illustrations are presented in so many different ways, the spacing, borders, how they are stacked side by side or layered. Sometimes the thought bubbles are stars, sometimes circles, sometimes squares. All the graphics are black and white, the drawings or illustrations are very life like. The book came out in April of 2017. I would love to know how long the drawings took create.
Certainly this book is not for everyone. I was curious about the experience, reading the story and appreciating the illustrations. It's a book I read twice. The 2nd time I focused 100% on the story, 100% on the words and discovered that I'd missed a few things during my first reading.
The author certainly succeeded, the illustrations are powerful, the content is universal. Her view, her drawings, her story, a personal perspective and history: imagined, created, shared.
The three additional books recommended in THE WEEK in this category of graphic nonfiction:
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Hostage by Guy Delisle
Everything is Flammable by Gabrielle Bell