Lenni Reviews: “Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame” by Erin Williams

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*This book is recommended for mature readers.

This graphic memoir follows Erin Williams, a recovering alcoholic and three-time sexual assault victim, through her daily routine and the thoughts and memories that come to the surface.

I can respect this book as a blow by blow of one woman’s thoughts during her day because I, and likely others, look at strangers, makeup stories and/or get reminded of events in my past. I can even relate to the random biological thoughts; just all the stuff that pops into your head. It’s creatively done. But this is such a personal and visceral experience that I feel bad for judging it and have difficulty empathizing with it. It seems wrong to critique something so personal. The content made me uncomfortable and it should, to be honest. I can see this being triggering for sexual assault victims and the art can be a little wonky in some places. My brain had to take a minute to process what the image was trying to convey. 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “They Called Us Enemy” by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, & Harmony Becker

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This graphic novel biography details George Takei’s four years in American Japanese internment camps during WWII.

I read this book with tears in my eyes the entire time. I remember learning about these camps in school and back then I couldn’t imagine people being so backward, paranoid, and inhumane.

But that was middle school me. Thirty-eight year old me has seen the news in 2019.

This book is not easy to read because people suck but much like putting myself through Maus and Irena; it does remind me that humans can also be amazing. I had to opportunity to see Mr. Takei speak about his time in the camps and I’m glad I did. I hope people realize one day, history will look back on us just as we look back now on what we did to the Japanese back then. 5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Irena Book One: Wartime Ghetto” by Jean-David Morvan, Séverine Tréfouël & David Evrard

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

This graphic novel tells the story of Irena Sendlerowa, a social worker in the Warsaw ghetto in the early 1940’s who helped smuggle 2500 Jewish children out of the ghetto before getting captured and tortured by the Nazis.

While of course, this is not easy to read, it is an important story and I am glad to see it told. I’m not sure I would give this to a young person as it doesn’t flinch much from the horrors of the ghettos and Nazi torture but it’s still a great book. If I had a nitpick, it would be the ending. Spoilery but it shows her walking off into the light as if she died when she didn’t. She lived into her 90’s. 4.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “No Ivy League” by Hazel Newlevant

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*This book has been given to me in exchange for an honest review.

Sheltered homeschooler Hazel Newlevant takes a summer job clearing ivy from the forests in Portland, Oregon. At first, she’s just looking to make some quick cash for a concert but she finds her small world opened when interacting with more diverse kids.

I like this book because the main character isn’t a racist who comes around. Hazel has legitimately not interacted with anything other than other white, affluent, homeschooled kids and comes to realize there’s a bigger world out there. She has been given advantages others may not have and instead of being some White Savior or being riddled with White Guilt, she just makes friends and starts dancing. I respect that.

I do feel more needed to be done with her parents and their reasons for homeschooling Hazel. The mother does go into her backstory a bit but if systemic racism and white privilege are being addressed, more was needed with Hazel’s realization about why her mother chose this rather than a couple of panels and one trip to the library. But that’s just me. Overall, I enjoyed it. 3.7 out of 5.

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BookExpo 2019 Day 1

Here’s the swag I got! 😀

And to cap it off, I got to see George Takei talk about his upcoming graphic memoir!

I’m telling you, it was a complete coincidence I wore one of my Star Trek shirts today.

Considering I deliberately left my rolling suitcase at home, I think I was quite restrained! But let me tell you when the floor opened, one would think someone would get stampeded. People had to be yelled at to just get in a line! It was crazy.

Never get in between book lovers and their free arcs, let me tell you. You may lose a finger!

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Lenni Reviews: “Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir” by Maggie Thrash

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In this memoir, fifteen year old Maggie recounts a summer at Camp Bellflower for Girls where she develops feelings for Erin; who is not only older than her, but a counselor.

While touching, this book really shines because it has so many more likable characters than what I normally see in a graphic memoir. Maggie has decent friends despite being in a pretty religious camp. Sure, there is still some homophobia but on the whole, she manages to have a good summer without getting picked on for being a lesbian.

If you can tell from the cover, the art is VERY simple. Everything is soft and simple to contrast the pretty complicated feelings going on. If I had a complaint, it would be it seems almost TOO soft. The book flutters by without much lasting impact.

Or maybe I’m just reading too many of these things, I dunno. 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Be Prepared” by Vera Brosgol

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In this semi-autobiographical graphic novel, we follow nine-year-old Vera through a summer at a Russian sleepaway camp. She hopes she will have more luck finding friends in a place with more Russian kids like her. While things don’t go exactly how she planned, Vera does learn some important lessons about what friendship means.

Man, I do NOT miss being nine years old. Kids are jerks. Hell, my kid can be a jerk and she comes home with stories from school and camp to verify my unchanged opinion from nine-year-old me. What Vera goes through resonates with me because around her age, I was the ‘poor kid’ going to school with the rich kids.

Poor is in quotes because ‘not rich’ meant ‘poor’ to those kids.

I felt real empathy for Vera and really enjoyed reading her story. I love the fact she isn’t a perfect little angel, falling for some of the classic kid missteps we all take. The art is expressive and cute, but it ends on a damn cliffhanger! I hope Vera plans to continue this because it’s awesome. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “POS: Piece of Sh*t” by Pierre Paquet and Jesús Alonso Iglesias

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*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review and is suggested for older readers.

In this autobiographical story, we follow Pierre as he struggles to start a publishing company. His constant companion through the highs and lows, loves, and losses is a scraggly dog named Sonny.

The art in this memoir is beautiful and is perfect for it’s touching story. Pierre is trying to do things right but ends up making crappy choices; leaving him lonely in life overall. In a way this book and Angel Catbird have a great deal in common when it comes to the underlying message of how to treat our pets but instead of silly puns, we get a tear-jerking story of how our pets truly are our family and how their love impacts our lives. If you enjoy stories that touch your heart and involve our furry companions, you will enjoy this story of how one guy just tries to be less of a POS.

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Lenni Reviews: “Spinning” by Tillie Walden

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We follow Tilly through her ice scating years as she struggles with growing up, coming out, and generally trying to figure out what to do with her life.

These graphic memoirs are really frustrating in a way because you see these talented kids with shitty parents and shitty friends trying desperately to find some sort of foothold in their lives. But I guess that’s the point, for these stories to get told and we can learn from them. But the mom and best friend in me bristles at the crappy people not helping our main character.

Putting my soapbox aside, this is an interesting read. I like the story, even if it gets slow sometimes, and I enjoyed learning all these things I never knew about figureskating. I can’t say this book is for everyone due to those moments in the story that are slow but I give this a solid 3.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Lighter Than My Shadow” by Katie Green

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is recommended for mature readers

In this graphic memoir, Katie Green takes a look back on her relationship with food and body image from early childhood through college as she battles with anorexia and binge eating.

I LOVE graphic memoirs when they are done right. The combined ability of art and the written word can impact you on a much deeper level than either one on its own. Lighter Than My Shadow is now among my favorites.

This book is not an easy read. Green is shamelessly honest in her depiction of the disorder and the toll it takes not only on the afflicted but on their friends and family. It’s heartbreaking to see this young girl’s self-esteem take hit after hit until her own mind circles the drain of all those negative thoughts. As dealing with depression is similar, I can empathize with her.

At times the narrative can get repetitive but if you remind yourself this is a person relapsing and not a fictional character, it’s forgivable. There is always a forward momentum, though. I admire the author’s courage and if you can read such things without getting triggered (SPOILER: I will have to insert a trigger warning for rape as well as the eating disorder), I highly suggest giving this book a try. 4.5 out of 5.

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