Good talk : a memoir in conversations

by Mira Jacob

Hardcover, 2018




New York : Random House, 2018.


"Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob's half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she's gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love. Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation--and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions" --

User reviews

LibraryThing member detailmuse
In this memoir, Mira Jacob explores her life and her awakening to the realities of being a person of color in the United States, alternating with her attempts to guide her mixed-race young son amid those same realities. The format is a series of several dozen conversations (“talks”), presented
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as comix with paperdoll-like characters over evocative photographic backgrounds of the relevant setting (various homes, big-city streets, outdoors).

I laughed out loud, I teared up. I felt turn-the-page suspense, discouragement, and the slightest hint of optimism. The book is readable in one sitting, but it’s not light material as Jacob develops the issues and powerfully immerses the reader in her experience. GOOD TALK is a very good book, and it’s an important book.
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LibraryThing member streamsong
Author Mira Jacob has written a stunning graphic novel about living as an Indian American in the US, and struggling to explain racism to her mixed race son. Her son asks straightforward questions as children will do – in the vein of why the emperor has no clothes. The questions themselves and
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their answers are often funny and sad at the same time.

We learn of Mira’s growing up, her experiences after 9/11 when anyone with a darker complexion was met with distrust and she was told to ‘Just go back home!” We see her angst as Donald Trump rises to power and unexpectedly wins the US presidential election. She fears for her own future, her son’s future and the entire nation’s future.

It’s also an unusual and arresting graphic format, with photographs as the backgrounds and lifelike drawn avatars of the characters in the foreground.

Extremely well done and highly recommended! 5 stars.
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LibraryThing member Hccpsk
Good Talk by Mira Jacobs is a really interesting and well-done graphic novel memoir. Jacobs uses the graphic format to its fullest as she recounts her life from her parents’ arranged marriage up through the Trump election. Interspersed throughout are conversations with her son about race, Michael
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Jackson, Donald Trump and knock-knock jokes among other things. Jacobs finds the humor in most of it and that really shines through making Good Talk a thoroughly enjoyable book. Highly recommended to graphic novels readers looking for something different or a great intro into the genre for others.
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LibraryThing member ChristopherSwann
Do yourself a favor, America—read this book.
LibraryThing member StefanieGeeks
There is so much to love about this memoir. Mira Jacob is of East Indian descent, raised in New Mexico, and has adopted New York as her home together with her Jewish husband. They have a young son who asks a lot of hilarious and perceptive questions, loving parents who can't relate, and a slew of
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other fascinating eclectic friends and family. Jacob has a beautiful way of connecting the audience to her personal stories. The graphics in the book are a perfect combination of black and white pencil comics and photographic backgrounds. This would be a great book club pick.
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LibraryThing member EBT1002
I finally obtained and got around to reading this magnificent graphic memoir, my favorite of the genre since Bechdel's Fun Home. Jacob uses photographs and static images along with drawn dialogue to tell her story "in conversations." An East Indian daughter of immigrants, she explores matters of
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race, immigration, marriage, friendship, and parenting -- all immersed in the landscape of our current political climate. The story made me laugh, shake my head in sorrow and in shame, and ultimately gave me the deep sense of satisfaction at having been given an unflinchingly honest insight into one woman's experience in post-9/11 America. I want to buy 50 copies and send them to every one I know. An absolute keeper.
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LibraryThing member TheLoisLevel
I really enjoyed this book. First, from a visual perspective, the background photography juxtaposed with the gray scale drawings of the characters is arresting. First, I love cityscapes, and second, since a lot of the plot centers on the meaning of being "brown" in the United States. The biggest
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weakness of this book is the ending. Current events just seem too raw to the author, and she hasn't been able to put them in perspective...and I'm saying this as someone who mostly agrees with her! I also have to say that the cover doesn't do justice to the work of art inside.
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LibraryThing member Familyhistorian
All the LT warbling about "Good Talk" got me interested so I had to read it. It was a very personal and perceptive work about being considered “other” in America today. There were so many events and episodes that Jacob lived through like 911 and the aftermath and the recent US elections that
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she was experiencing as not just an American citizen but also through another layer of identity being a visible member of a minority. Trying to explain the meaning of things to her son really underlined how convoluted and scary their experience in America has been and will continue to be.
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LibraryThing member quondame
Born in the USA, her parents from an India, but an ancient minority of Syrian Christians, Mira Jacobs articulates and illustrates for her son, herself, her family and luckily for us, her experience of being non-white in two cultures that value light skin over dark. The artwork isn't quite of the
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quality of the writing, but is effective and subversive in that all the white people look somehow incomplete - or slightly demented or both. This is strong, but even so, I suspect it's still the prettied up version.
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LibraryThing member JesseTheK
Outstanding: the collage of sketches against photographic backgrounds captures the importance of these conversations while grounding them in time and place. Jacob provides the visceral experience of pain, pleasure, triumph & despair of marginalized people in the USA in the last two decades.
LibraryThing member LibrarianRyan
OMG! I now know why everyone was talking about this book and it was up on so many “best of” lists. It deserves to be there.

Mira takes the reader on a journey through her life. A journey of being East Indian, a dark East Indian, in a world that prefers lighter skin. However, we don’t just see
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her life, we join in her conversations and the complexities of explaining race relations to a child living in a Trump nation. It’s something that can’t be explained away, but must be lived through. The timeline jumps around, but I think that helps the story have more impact. It’s what she was thinking about as her son asks the hard questions.

This work is fabulously done. The illustrations over real pictures, the way one drawn image represents multiple people of one race. It helps illustrate how some people think all people of a certain skin tones look alike. This book way moving and powerful. I think in time it will become as important a work as Maus, or Persepolis. It’s a view into the mind of someone living in a time where many are blind to the actions of our government and the ones who run it.
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LibraryThing member manadabomb
This graphic novel should be a must read for every white person out in the world. I listened to an episode of So Many Damn Books with Mira Jacob (episode 118) and she was funny, intelligent, and 100% engaging. She talked about how she cannot have conversations with her in-laws about politics
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because they voted and back Trump.

Mira is Indian. Her husband is white. Their cute kiddo is mixed race. You can see how having your in-laws supporting Trump can cause problems? Ah, but really you only think you understand.

Walk through this novel and you actually can see how hurtful this is. You can see how it feels to be pregnant and, while at an all white party, you are assumed to be the help instead of the daughter-in-law. Because....people with dark skin are always the help? No, they actually are not.

Mira shows us all the talks she has with her son, who is full of questions. She tries to navigate him through the 2016 election, what it means to be mixed race, why his dad doesn't hate him (dad is white = white people hate brown people), and more. It's a bit of a painful read if you let it be. And maybe you should let it be painful and really step into their shoes a bit.
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LibraryThing member villemezbrown
There is a lot of touching and insightful comments in here about race, families, September 11, and the elections of Donald Trump and Barack Obama. If the author had chosen to make this entirely prose or had had another artist draw it, I would probably have given it four stars. But instead, she
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chose to illustrate it herself in an extremely unfortunate and distracting style.

Effectively, she has made the book version of a YouTube video starring paper doll puppets on ice cream sticks. She literally draws most characters once, though some are drawn two or three times if they need to be children and adults in the narrative, then she just copies and pastes the same character images over and over in front of a different stock photo background and puts lots of word balloons over everything. The word balloons are great, mind you, but we are left with major emotional moments occurring in those balloons and faces that refuse to break from their neutral expressions. We have conversations between two characters that both stare directly out at the reader instead of making eye contact with each other. We're talking a half dozen or more pages in a row, again and again, with the same exact character images staring out at us as the background picture changes. OMG!

When Scott Meyer does this in his Basic Instruction cartoons, he does it to humorous effect, mocking himself. When Brian Michael Bendis does it in his superhero books, fans tend to groan and do the mocking for him. Here, it nearly ruins the book, as I constantly burst into laughter at the ridiculous contrast between word and image.

Still, the words are good enough that I like the book despite the illustrations.
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LibraryThing member bell7
Mira Jacobs' memoir starts with difficult conversations she has with her six-year-old son about race. Sometimes what she's trying to say gets interrupted by a knock-knock joke, and other days he asks her hard questions such as is his white father afraid of them. In between chapters of the
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almost-present-day, Mira includes her own family history, beginning with her parents' marriage and immigration from India to New Mexico, and walking through her own experience sometimes being treated as an outsider in her own country.

This fabulous graphic memoir should appeal to a wide audience. Mira and her son Z both have some hard questions and wrestle with being brown in America. By juxtaposing her parental conversations with her lived experience, readers experience the tension of living in a country with hope for a better future, and frustration with racial inequities that haven't changed and in some ways have regressed. The artwork is a unique mixed media, with backgrounds of photographs of different locations, and black-and-white drawings of each of the characters superimposed over the photographs. I've never seen anything like it, but it's really effective.
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LibraryThing member greeniezona
This book was a bonus recommendation from my Tailored Book Recommendation subscription, but was the first one to show up from my library hold list -- also a great fit for a readathon.

This book is incredible. All about the fantastic weirdness and awfulness of race relations in America -- but on the
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extremely personal scale -- told in conversations. From conversations with her son who is getting old enough to pick up on all the racism and xenophobia in the air to memories of 9/11 to her interracial marriage and the ways her white, Jewish husband gets but sometimes doesn't get being an ally. The most painful part of the book (at least for me) is her deteriorating relationship with her in-laws, who start out supportive if sometimes clueless, then morph into spiky and defensive Trump supporters.

I love the art and the stories and I'm sad to send this back to the library, but happy that it's because of a hold, which means that someone else will be reading this very soon.
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LibraryThing member alanna1122
I took this book out of the library on Kindle before I realized it was a graphic novel. I ended up reading it on my Ipad instead of my Kindle because of the pictures and the colors. The experience turned out to be pretty great and I am glad to know I have a way to read books like this when I dont
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have a tangible copy.

Overall, I liked this book. It's engagingly written and I like the way it is written in conversations. That part seemed really natural to me. I liked how the author took pains to let us know not only things about her - but about where she came from and the story of her family.
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LibraryThing member lycomayflower
Jacob's graphic memoir, focusing on race and the conversations she's had with her biracial son. Insightful, moving, thought-provoking--and the art is fascinating. It's comprised mostly of drawings of all the figures in the memoir (Jacob, her husband, her son, et cetera) set against family
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photographs or photographs of settings where conversations took place. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member huyen
Fantastic book about POC living in America, race, identity, family. Easy to read, hits the heart of what it is like to be brown in our society.
LibraryThing member LibroLindsay
One of the best reads of 2019 so far. Hands down. I LOLed and fought back tears in equal measure.
LibraryThing member arosoff
Graphic books are not usually a format I enjoy. No judgment; I just seem to get along better with straight text. The exception, it seems (to some extent) is memoirs. Almost all the graphic works I can remember enjoying were memoirs, and this is one. It's about being brown in America: her Kerala
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Christian parents' arranged marriage and move to the US; her childhood as one of the few Indian-American kids in Albuquerque; navigating dating; and raising an Indian-Jewish child in Brooklyn in the age of Trump. The art is a mix of drawings with photos added in, and it works well. I think her story would have worked well in a traditional format (I enjoyed Jacob's novel) but she does a great job with the graphic format.
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LibraryThing member eas7788
I really like the way she tells the story -- the graphics, the present/past movement, the use of conversations. I feel like I know her well after reading. She raises issues about race and America and identity in familiar but new ways. It's hard to go back to the rise of Trump, but necessary, and
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she makes it both personal and about all of us.
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LibraryThing member hcnewton
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.

Sometimes, you don't know how confused you are about something important until you try explaiing it to someone else.

It's 2014 when the book opens, Mira Jacob's son Z is six and he's asking Mom a lot of questions
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(because he's six). They start off talking about Michael Jackson—Z is obsessed with him. Z eventually asks about Jackson's skin color—Z is half-Jewish, half-Indian and has several questions about skin color that stem from this (and likely predate this, but what do I know) which leads to questions about race, race relations, and what he sees on the news. Jacob's committed to being open and honest with Z, but struggles knowing how much she should say—and how optimistic she should be about the state of the US in terms of Ferguson, MO, and a lot of the rhetoric surrounding the 2016 elections.

The memoir comes in as Jacob recounts several scenes from her childhood/young adulthood that shaped her. Her parents immigrated from India in the 60s (a week before MLK was assassinated) and took up residence in Albuquerque. We get a few scenes from her childhood and teen years before moving to adulthood, dealing with misunderstandings, assumptions, and unintentional rudeness based on her background. Eventually, she finds herself in New York City trying to make it as a freelance writer and dating. This is all told with frankness and humor. The kind of humor that reminded me of Amber Ruffin/Lacey Lamar's You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey from last year—you laugh so you don't have to cry.

I really don't know how to describe the art here, but this is a graphic memoir, so it's a major component of the book. So I'd better try.

I saw someone on Goodreads use the term "mixed media," and without researching it, I think it's close enough to use as a description (maybe not technically right?). Please note that this is me trying to describe it, not being dismissive as it may sound. It's like Jacob drew nice, but not fantastic, paper dolls of each character (some at different ages, others static) and put them on top of photographs or drawings of various locations and added speech bubbles.

I just saw that she has an Instagram account that uses images from the book (in addition to the regular Instagram stuff), so I figure I can "quote" something to show what I'm talking about:

This is nowhere near the kind of art that appeals to me in graphic novels/memoirs etc. Give me something dynamic, something with some flair, something I can bask in. But...this really worked for me. It helped give this a "documentary" kind of feel (don't ask me to explain this, but it struck me that way). This isn't about the glitz or the pictures jumping off of the page, it's about a woman having tricky conversations with her loved ones—and complete strangers, sometimes. The focus is on the words, but the images help carry you along.


Sometimes, you go along with it and pretend nothing happened. Sometimes, you hold your breath until the feeling of wanting to believed passes. Sometimes, you weigh explaining against staying quiet and know they're both just different kinds of heavy. Sometimes, when it's your mother-in-law—a woman you started calling Mom the day you got engaged because you admired the ferocity with which she loved her children, and maybe even wanted some of it for yourself—you look ahead and see all the years of birthdays and graduations and weddings that will be shadowed by things that she can't imagine about your life. Sometimes, you can't hold your breath long enough.

I typed "I really enjoyed this book", but I'm not sure that's the appropriate response. I don't know that supposed to enjoy this—but her style and humor are really engaging and there's enough hope in there that it feels natural to say. I feel okay saying that this is a good read—it'll make you think, it might make you grin, and it'll definitely make you wince.

Right away, when Jacob goes to visit families in India and they tell her that her skin tone (darker than her parents' or her brother's) marks her out as not as attractive or a good prospect for marriage, you can tell she will pull no punches. And you can understand why she wouldn't want to. It's one of the many, many things that guys like me on Scalzi's Lowest Difficulty Setting don't have to think of. There are many sections of the book that hit the same way—like the chapter where she talks about being mistaken for "the help" at a party her mother-in-law was hosting. The above quotation is part of that—she decides mid-way through the conversation that she's not going to try to explain what happened, nor argue about it. Constantly having to explain your experiences—your life—to people who don't get it has to be a kind of exhausting that I can't imagine.

But there's a lot of humor and hope here, too—not all of it at the expense of clueless white folk saying dumb things. There's the chapter about getting her dad to use marijuana to help the pain of his cancer treatment, for example. It's funny and heart-warming. Until he dies, of course, reminding you that this isn't that the hope is tinged with reality.

I really recommend this book—it's a deceptively easy read, and you shouldn't let the style or format fool you into racing through it. There's a lot to chew on, a lot to reflect on—and a perspective that should be listened to. Even if you can't relate to her struggles, can't agree with her politics, and find the whole discussion unsettling. Maybe especially then.
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LibraryThing member johnavery
Clever concept. Very well thought out and presented. Mira catches many of the subtleties of racism and discrimination that we don’t even think about unless we are on the receiving end. I’m not, but this book connected me to some of the pain caused by racism in its many forms. Mira writes from
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the perspective of an East Indian married to a Jewish man and the questions asked by their son. She expresses our unspoken thoughts so succinctly. Take this for an example: “We took bets on what would bring [Barack Obama] down, which is what you do when you’re trying to break your own heart before [someone else] does it for you.” Or, “Forcing them to see that [racism] is happening here, now, is like waking up a sleepwalker.” She has an interesting way of jumping between the political high of 2016 and the low of 2020, both of which had a lot to do with racism. That’s an example of the knife edge that racist attitudes force so many people to live on.
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LibraryThing member larryerick
"Guilty Pleasure - something, such as a movie, television program, or piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard." I've always thought that there's a certain glow within the individual that has a "guilty pleasure" that goes beyond just an everyday
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pleasant feeling. It's like a pleasure for the individual that goes beyond the norm. It's sort of a secret pleasure, one that doesn't have to be shared with anyone else. We get to wallow in it, having it all to ourselves. That's sort of the feeling I have about this book. There's really nothing guilty about it. It's full of honesty, warmth, humor, and a deep sense of true humanity. It's not the least bit shoddy. It also has received very positive reviews by others. So, that doesn't apply either. It's just so positively direct in appealing to me that it *feels* like a guilty pleasure. What can I say? I really, really liked it. Oh, and don't stop reading it after reaching the usual ending point. This book even has it's own little version of the "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" end credits. You know how that movie ends, right? I mean really ends? Enjoy. I certainly did.
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LibraryThing member terran
Very cleverly done memoir of conversations the author had with her mixed race son and others about a variety of topics. Thought-provoking discussions about racial relations and a variety of issues in today's America.



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