Nonfiction Illustrated 2016 5

Added on by Doug Dowd.

A final installment in consideration of categories. I'm wrapping this up before hitting the hay, but will be back in the morning with a few thoughts about how to think about developing a project. What makes for a good one? Stay tuned...

Category 5: Biography and Memoir

Autobiography is handy since you always have yourself nearby, but things which have occurred in the past have to be represented credibly–which can be harder than it sounds. Observation/ documentation is required to support it. That is, if you want to include a flashback scene to your elementary school, you should go draw or photograph it over holiday break. Things which can be documented, ought to be. But there are issues of salience, too. If you are telling a story which happened in your own life, why? Are you the protagonist, or the foil to some other character? Do not assume that heartwarming tales of Uncle Fuzzy will make good copy. Odds are they won't. 

Historical biography poses its own problems. Chief among them are research about your subject and period details. I don't want to discourage you from this category–at least not necessarily–but I think if you were to attempt a biographical subject it should be someone with whom you are already quite familiar. 

Two memoirs of note (among hundreds):
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It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken, A Picture Novella by Seth. Drawn & Quarterly, 1996. (Originally issued as Palookaville Nos. 4 through 9, 1993-96. Palookaville is Seth's serially-issued comic.) 

Seth's tale is fictional, but mock-autobiographical: a story of a quest to track down an obscure, forgotten cartoonist in gray Southern Ontario. Seth makes very good use of silent panels to move the action, as if in a film. 

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At A Crossroads: Between a Rock and My Parents' Place. Written and Illustrated by Kate Williamson. A Graphic Memoir, Princeton Architectural Press, 2008. 

Kate Williamson wrote this book about the experience of moving back in with her parents after a year spent in Japan, post-college graduation. She expected it to brief, but it lasted almost two years. Her narrative and images capture an in-between place very effectively. It's "graphic novel" -ish, but painted in watercolor, without a lot of panels. There is charm in her informality, but it's deceptive, too.  

Plus two biography (as it happens, both 19th century American ones)

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Looking at Lincoln, written and illustrated by Maira Kalman. Nancy Paulson Books, an imprint of Penguin. 2012.

This is a splendidly informal, yet substantial book about Lincoln for young people, charmingly presented. I'm just giving you the cover, because it's late I'm bleary-eyed and I'm on my 5th post about this stuff. I have a copy; I'll bring it in. In the meantime, check it out. 

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John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, written and illustrated by John Hendrix. (Perhaps you have heard of him?) Abrams, 2009. 

A terribly challenging subject, managed with surprising directness by M. Hendrix. More word-image adventures from our great colleague. 

Seth, cover design, It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken. 1996. 

Maira Kalman, cover illustration, Looking at Lincoln. 2012. Lincoln has never gotten the bubble-gum treatment, til now, til that pink.  

Maira Kalman, cover illustration, Looking at Lincoln. 2012. Lincoln has never gotten the bubble-gum treatment, til now, til that pink.  

Seth, interior page, It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken. 1996. 

Seth, interior page, It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken. 1996.

Seth, interior page, It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken. 1996.

John Hendrix. John Brown: His Fight for Freedom. Abrams, 2009. 

Kate Williamson, At a Crossroads: Between a Rock and my Parents' Place. Princeton Architectural Press, 2008. 

Williamson, Crossroads. 

Willamson, Crossroads.