The Personal and the Political

Today was the first day of the farmer’s market, which for me, marks the real first day of spring. That’s when flowers are in bloom, there are little sprouts of basil, and bundles of asparagus. We had a brief thunderstorm in the morning and I thought the day was ruined. But then, just as we finished breakfast, the clouds broke and then sun came out. My kids love stomping around in their rain boots so it didn’t take much convincing. My daughter got to shop for flowers, my son got to watch the trains go by, and I got my asparagus.

To make it even better, it was also FREE COMIC BOOK DAY! There’s no need to explain further why that makes me happy.

Then, I headed to the library for a discussion about “The Personal and the Political in Graphic Books”. It was a panel of three writers/artists: Keiler Roberts, Ozge Samanci, Anne Elizabeth Moore with the discussion led by Brian Cremins (associate professor at Harper College).

This is a topic that always interests me. Our identity is deeply rooted in our culture and if that culture is threatened by political unrest, what happens? Those political issues for women can cover a range of topics: birth control, abortion, religion, war.

These women represented the range of personal to political. I was already familiar with Keiler Roberts’ work. I own and read Miseryland, which is an autobiographical account of her life as a mother. It’s unabashedly honest and I find myself laughing out loud because as a mother of a strong willed toddler, I see so much of myself and my daughter in her vignettes. Her stories are funny because it’s so true. At the same time, there is an underlying sadness that is briefly mentioned but never deeply discussed. Personally, I think it should be and I hope that in future books, Keiler will address it. Her writing style is relatable and I think many women would respond to it.

I had not heard of Ozge Samanci before but I now want to read anything she publishes. Here’s the book trailer for her memoir Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey:

She is one of those people who the more she talks, the more you want to hear. She grew up in Turkey and her memoir is about growing up during a politically turbulent time. Not only were her parents and friends and neighbors trying to tell her who to be, but she had her own voice struggling to be heard. Her mixed media is a work of art and her process is fascinating. I can’t wait to read this one.

The most political of the three books is Threadbare: Clothes, Sex, and Trafficking (Comix Journalism) but the story of the women involved is very personal. And it will affect a lot of people I know, myself included because we all like to shop for affordable clothing. This book looks at the working conditions for women who work in the clothing industry (not on the well paid end) and it’s not glitzy or glamorous. Using comics is a way to make the story easier to swallow but that doesn’t make it any less serious. There’s a part of me that knows why the clothes I buy at H&M and Forever21 are so cheap but I choose to ignore it. I have a feeling I won’t be able to after I read this book. And as a feminist, I shouldn’t.

With the start of Bout of Books, I’m hoping to get through all these books. I’ll write more about them after I do. It’s gonna be a great week!


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