"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" --
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
This book is incredible. All about the fantastic weirdness and awfulness of race relations in America -- but on the
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.
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.
Sometimes, you don't know how confused you are about something important until you try explaiing it to someone else.
WHAT'S GOOD TALK ABOUT?
It's 2014 when the book opens, Mira Jacob's son Z is six and he's asking Mom a lot of questions
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.
SO, WHAT DID I THINK ABOUT GOOD TALK?
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.