“Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions,” by Andy Warner

“Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions,” by Andy Warner. St. Martin’s/Griffin, January 28, 2020. 208 pp. Paperback, $19.95. Adult.

Thanks to Fables Books, 215 South Main Street in downtown Goshen, Indiana, for providing Commons Comics with books to review. Visit the store or contact them at fablesbooks@gmail.com to find or order this or any book reviewed on this blog.

Note: St. Martin’s/Griffin Books sent me a free copy of this book.

Andy Warner opens his new memoir “Spring Rain” with a disclaimer: “Memory is a tricky business.” We watch his plane fly into Beirut, Lebanon, and see his younger self make his way through customs and the airport. It’s 2005, he’s twenty-one, and he’s visiting Beirut as an American study-abroad student. Present-day Warner explains that he’s been reading through old diaries from his semester abroad to piece together the time in his life that we’re watching and reading. “It’s hard to reread,” he admits. “I come off like an idiot.”

It’s a brilliant opener for two reasons. First, for Warner’s disarming self-deprecation, which encourages readers to trust him. Second, for the narrative teaser: we’re waiting for young Andy to do something stupid, so that we can find out precisely what form his idiocy will take. Continue reading ““Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions,” by Andy Warner”

“They Called Us Enemy,” by George Takei

“They Called Us Enemy” by George Takei, with Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker. Top Shelf, July 2019. 208 pp. Paperback, $19.99. Middle to high school.

Thanks to Fables Books, 215 South Main Street in downtown Goshen, Indiana, for providing Commons Comics with books to review. Visit the store or contact them at fablesbooks@gmail.com to find or order this or any book reviewed on this blog.

How do you decide whether to stand for your principles or protect your family? It’s not a decision any parent should be forced to make, but actor and activist George Takei lived the consequences of his parents’ honesty. Fortunately for Takei—and for his massive fanbase, many of whom have followed him from the first “Star Trek” to his more recent roles in shows from “Furturama” and “Archer” to “Kim Possible”—he not only survived, but eventually thrived.

Now 82, this isn’t the first time that Takei has told the story of his family’s time in US internment camps for Japanese Americans. His memoir “To the Stars” also inspired the musical, “Allegiance.” The graphic memoir “They Called Us Enemy” is the most recent version of this thankfully brief chapter in his life, published by Top Shelf, best known for US congressman John Lewis’s graphic memoir trilogy “March.” Co-writers Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott helped Takei translate the narrative to comics form, and the art of Harmony Becker—subtle and manga-inflected (see, for example, the backgrounds and the giant tears on the page below)—transforms the story into a work of art.

When Takei and his family were first imprisoned in May 1942, they didn’t have any choices to make at all: US soldiers came to the door with bayonets to kick them out of their house. They had ten minutes to pack.

Continue reading ““They Called Us Enemy,” by George Takei”

“Hey, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”: The Fifth Beatle

This post was originally published in the “Elkhart Truth” in August 2014. I thought it was a good time to resurrect it, because “Yesterday” is about to disappear from theaters. It’s a beautiful and brilliant film whether or not you know the Beatles’s music well, and it’s definitely worth catching on the big screen before it disappears.

“The Fifth Beatle,” written by Vivek Tiwary and illustrated by Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker is not a book about The Beatles themselves—plenty of those have been published, and plenty more are surely on the way. Neither is this book about the person usually referred to as the fifth Beatle: Pete Best, the drummer who preceded Ringo Starr.

The book’s title instead comes from a 1999 quote by Paul McCartney: “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian.” Brian Epstein was the manager—and some would argue the “designer”—of the Beatles, the man who transformed a witty and talented but ragged band into the polished, worldwide zeitgeist we remember them as today. Continue reading ““Hey, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”: The Fifth Beatle”