Lenni Reviews: “Queen of Snails: A Graphic Memoir” by Maureen Burdock


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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review. Trigger warning for child abuse.

After being forced to move from Germany to the American Midwest, Maureen feels alone with a hyper religious mother and distant grandmother. This graphic novel is the author looking back on her traumatic childhood.

I love the art; the subdued colors with mostly black and white drawings make for a soothing look despite the somber subject matter. Maureen’s past and how it influenced her upbringing is complicated and sad but it is beautifully expressed in this book. Everything about it radiates of someone trying to deal with the weight of those who came before her and the crap she had to deal with on your own. It can be hard to read but I found it was worth it. 4.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Gay Giant” by Gabriel Ebensperger

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

This is Gabriel Ebensperger’s autobiographical account of being gay as a kid growing up in Chile. This is short and sweet, relying on some unique art to convey some complex adolescent feelings. Given it’s length it doesn’t quite rise to feeling complete. It’s a little rushed but it feels odd to say “Excuse me, sir, your unique feelings and life experiences aren’t paced well.” These are his stories that he’s sharing with is and he can share them however he wants. It does a great job of expressing the confusion, fear, and conflict of coming to terms with your identity. I think an older teenager or young adult would appreciate this but there is some nudity. Nothing overly explicit. 3.9 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: “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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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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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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