Lenni Reviews: “The Stars of History: Marilyn Monroe” by Bernard Swysen, Paty Christian

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

This graphic novel is a fast-paced biography of Marilyn Monroe starting from birth until her untimely death.

And by fast-paced, I mean very, VERY rushed account of her life. I like the art style for the expressive faces but the body proportions are iffy in places; like all of a sudden someone will have a HUGE behind or look like their back is broken. Unlike something like Irena – a biographical comic that is entertaining and detailed enough to act as a jumping-off point for further research – this book is more like a cliff-notes of a real biography. It’s ok but superficial. I think it should have taken more time to really dig deep but maybe they had page constraints. 3.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Irena: Life After the 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 volume follows Irena as she continues to help children and others as the war winds down; acting as  a nurse to help injured people.

This is still a great series highlighting the bravery of a woman who just wanted to do the right thing during horrible times. Everything is handled tastefully and it’s really inspiring. I think Irena would like this series if she could see it. 5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Kusama: The Graphic Novel” by Elisa Macellari

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

This graphic memoir of Yayoi Kusama, an artist who used painting to deal with and express her mental issues. It’s a breezy book, giving broad information at a fast pace. It’s a beautiful introduction to Kusama’s life and art. A longer book would have dived deeper but you understand who she is and why she loves art so much.

Not knowing much about Kusama myself, I felt satisfied by what I learned about her from this book. You can tell a lot of love went into the art and even if you aren’t into is, its worth checking out. 3.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Come Home, Indio” by Jim Terry

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

This graphic novel is the memoir of Native American Jim Terry, as he grows through his childhood with alcoholic parents, growing up to struggle with alcoholism himself, his identity in the Native American community, and losing his parents.

Despite it being pretty depressing, this is a great memoir with amazing art that sets the mood well. It’s unflinchingly honest and raw, leaving you with a hopeful note at the end. If you’re into graphic memoirs, this is a unique story. 4 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: “Spellbound: A Graphic Memoir” by Bishakh Kumar Som

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

This memoir tells the story of a transgender woman Bishakh, who quits her job to write and create graphic novels. We follow her through her typical day interspersed with flashbacks of her parents and life in college.

I wanted to like this. I wanted to be impressed with Bishakh’s life story, chasing her dream of being a graphic artist and making a living off her art but my ARC copy was so small the font chosen for all the text was PAINFUL to read. Nearly impossible in some parts so I wasn’t able to get the full effect of the story. I may have to revisit this book once I can get my hands on a print copy. I doubt the final product will have that quality.

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Lenni Reviews: “Tiananmen 1989” by Lun Zhang, Adrien Gombeaud & Améziane

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

Our narrator, Lun Zhang; a sociology professor, recounts his experiences in Tiananmen during a mass protest by students for political reforms in China.

Like the other graphic novels I’ve read about historical events, this book breaks down a complicated event into an easily digestible and visually interesting way that I believe will inform and entertain the reader. I was only 8 years old when all this wend down so I had no idea what as going on. The book is a bit dry in parts and there are historical names dropped that I don’t have enough context to be impressed by but this is pretty darn solid. 3.9 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: “The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television” by Koren Shadmi

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This graphic novel details Rod Serling’s life from his time in war through his writing career before and after The Twilight Zone.

I think this was a very good biography. It highlights enough important parts of his life to get a firm grasp of the overall picture without getting bogged down in boring details, the art is perfect for this subject, and it also comes along with a great framing device. It was cool to see how much Serling put into the show; even some episodes flat out emulating his own issues. I think Mr. Serling himself would be proud. I do have to wonder how much of this is accurate but one never does know that for sure. 4.7 out of 5.

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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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