Calling Dr. Laura: a Graphic Memoir by Nicole Georges

lauraThis book had been on my radar for so long that it was rather built up in my head. For the longest time I wasn’t able to get it and finally my library had it and I was so excited to receive it. Not surprisingly, it couldn’t quite live up to what I had it built up to be. That said, this was a fine graphic memoir and I did enjoy it.  I liked the illustration style. The story itself is a memoir, all about Nicole’s family secrets (her family told her her father was dead-he wasn’t) and coming out to her family. The Dr. Laura part was smaller than I thought it would be (again, built up in my head.) Overall, this was good but not the best I’d ever read.

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You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day

dayIn this book Day talks a lot about being “situationally famous”-that at certain places and among certain crowds she is hugely famous, but anyone out of that setting just doesn’t know who she is. So as you read this entry you either know who she is, or don’t. In a nutshell, Day is an actress/writer/producer best known for creating (and starring in) the web series The Guild, and also co-starred in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog (a Joss Whedon production), and then she headed up a big YouTube channel called Geek & Sundry. She’s known for being a big part of the gaming/geek world and HUGE in the Twitter world.  Somehow I never looked at a single thing on Geek & Sundry and I kind of hate Twitter so I miss out on her there, but I was a fan of The Guild and Dr. Horrible. She runs with the Wil Wheaton/Joss Whedon crowd (and in the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of the new slayers!) And add to that list of things she does, talented writer. Because this was a super enjoyable, engaging, funny book. I hesitate to say memoir, that term doesn’t seem right, though it is about her and it is in the Biography section, so there you have it.

So yes, it is a memoir in that Day recounts growing up as a weird homeschooled kid and her rise to fame. But what I think makes this good and enjoyable for all, is that she tells the stories and anecdotes as a way to embrace her differences and show how being weird and different is totally ok and makes you who you are. I’m kind of in total awe of her now after learning that in addition to all the stuff I already knew about her, it turns out she’s super smart and a violin prodigy as well. She went to college at 16 and ended with a 4.0. So she’s brilliant and funny, but you get the feeling that in real life she wouldn’t be intimidating but could be your friend. Although maybe not, because you also find out that she’s pretty neurotic and her drive to succeed led to some pretty serious depression and mental health problems.

I loved finding out how The Guild came about and how it was created. Fascinating details! The book ends on a bit of a downer when she talks about #GamerGate, a terrible phenomenon that I hadn’t even been aware of happening, but makes you lose your faith in people.

So, would you enjoy this book if you are not part of that world? Absolutely yes. It’s funny, thoughtful about the internet, and also an interesting look at a particular moment in time when web series were new and YouTube was also brand new.  And perhaps also if you enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s memoir Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? or Tina Fey’s Bossypants, this would be up your alley as well.

Rapture Practice: A True Story about Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family by Aaron Hartzler

raptureI admit that I began reading this with undisguised fascination for the inner rules and workings of an evangelical Christian family. But it really ended up being more than that. Hartzler is a good writer and manages to convey his genuine love and affection for his family, all while beginning to question the very tenets of his faith. He is also gay, something he is slowly realizing (though never comes out and acknowledges during the book.) I did find myself fascinated and horrified by his parents’ strict rules and thought it was pretty amazing that raised as he was he was able to question the logic of the actions of God (for example, if everything is preordained, why would God bother to create a world that would require the bloody sacrifice of his son? and, best of all, if his parents felt he was damaging his soul by listening to an Amy Grant cd, how could it be that serial killer Ted Bundy could accept Jesus before being put to death and get into the same heaven?)
Well written, but it definitely left me wanting more (something he acknowledges in the afterword. Though I will add a different question I want answered-did he remain friends with Bradley?)

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince

tomboyA graphic novel memoir all about a girl’s childhood to young womanhood, focusing on the fact that she is a tomboy. As a memoir I found it very enjoyable-not super gripping, but pleasant.  I think that girls who feel a connection to Liz would find this book extremely comforting. There are definitely moments of sadness talking about how unkind people could be to her and the isolation she felt.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

(After writing up the review for Sisters, I see that I never did a post for Smile! So here’s what I said on Goodreads.)
smileThis book was huge the year it came out and somehow I never read it even though every single YA person I know loved it. And with good reason! I loved this. Strangely, I felt like I could relate both to the awkward middle school protagonist AND her mother (I guess I’ve reached a certain age?) This was touching, moving, and completely realistic (as it should be given that it’s a memoir.) That delicate border of 12 going into 13 was heartbreakingly relatable

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

sistersThis is the sequel to Smile, and just as heartfelt. This time the focus is on Raina’s relationship with her sister Amara, specifically during a long family road trip to Colorado.  Although it covers some sensitive stuff, like the family’s growing pains in a small apartment, sibling rivalry, and parental woes, it actually didn’t feel as heavy as Smile.  I couldn’t quite place where this fit in chronologically with Smile, but Raina had braces in it so it is in that timeline.
I loved the road trip details, but for me the big standout is the snake story. Given that I am terrified of snakes and the drawings of Raina with giant terrified eyes is pretty much me.

Another winning book by Telgemeier. I’d read anything she writes & draws-she perfectly captures the sweet and sour feelings of adolescence.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

frenchI didn’t love this as much as I’d hoped to. Also, when I got to the end and realized that it wasn’t on my reading challenge list (I thought it was) I was totally bummed. It’s a graphic novel memoir of a month and a half spent in Paris.  The author/subject is a college age girl who goes there with her mother.  It’s a great experience for them as they eat lots of interesting things (paté galore) and see lots of art.  I did enjoy reading about the things they saw and places they went, but didn’t feel there was anything especially compelling. Also, this might be terrible, but I really had no empathy for her 20something malaise-depression-boyfriend missing.  It’s very much a personal travel journal/diary, but neither her personal life nor her observations were interesting enough to make this a compelling read.