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Tina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary

Tina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary

by Keshni Kashyap, Mari Araki (Illustrator)

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In the tradition of Persepolis and American Born Chinese, a wise and funny high school heroine comes of age.

Tina M., sophomore, is a wry observer of the cliques and mores of Yarborough Academy, and of the foibles of her Southern California intellectual Indian family. She's on a first-name basis with Jean-Paul Sartre, the result of an English


In the tradition of Persepolis and American Born Chinese, a wise and funny high school heroine comes of age.

Tina M., sophomore, is a wry observer of the cliques and mores of Yarborough Academy, and of the foibles of her Southern California intellectual Indian family. She's on a first-name basis with Jean-Paul Sartre, the result of an English honors class assignment to keep an “existential diary.”

Keshni Kashyap’s compulsively readable graphic novel packs in existential high school drama—from Tina getting dumped by her smart-girl ally to a kiss on the mouth (Tina’s mouth, but not technically her first kiss) from a cute skateboarder, Neil Strumminger. And it memorably answers the pressing question: Can an English honors assignment be one fifteen-year-old girl’s path to enlightenment?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Tina, an Indian-American living in San Francisco, writes an illustrated diary to Jean-Paul Sartre as part of a semesterlong existentialism class in this charming coming-of-age story. Even if Tina’s background and high school are out of the ordinary, her problems are universal: Tina’s best friend ditches her for a boy and Tina has a crush on someone but has trouble making it work. All the while, Tina observes her older siblings’ love anxiety, her sister’s move back home after a broken heart, and her brother’s disastrous exploration of Indian dating sites. Tina’s purportedly existential observations on love and her contemplation of her own sorry existence will be familiar to witty young women troubled by low self-esteem. The artwork is sufficient, if a tad too simplistic at times. Occasionally the minimalist lines make it hard to differentiate between characters. Regardless, the amateur style of the book lends an air of authenticity that could be inspiring to teens unsure of their own burgeoning drawing skills. A story about Krishna lends the book its title. Tina is not religious herself, but she and her peers are exploring different religions as they grapple with racial identity. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

"Keshni Kashyap's words and Mari Araki's illustrations combine to wonderful effect in this honest and funny graphic novel." —Entertainment Weekly (Must List)

"Tina Fey's snarky humor in a teenager's body and we really can't get enough." —Nylon Magazine

"Instead of just charting the discoveries of a smart kid's adolescence, Tina's Mouth can make you feel them. This is familiar material, yes, but it's familiar in the way of philosophy and pop songs can be: At their best, the breathless feelings, dramatized by Kashyap and Araki might match up to a corresponding one in youand then set it off like fireworks."  San Francisco Weekly

"Slangy and funny and honest, like a mix of John Hughes, J.D. Salinger and Marjane Satrapi."  The A.V. Club

A "charming coming-of-age tale." --Publishers Weekly

"Kashyap's story is clever and genuinely felt...Araki's quirky black-and-white art suits the story well and amplifies the tide of events...A complete package that gives both Sartre and Tina their due."  Booklist, STARRED review

"With her deadpan wit and gift for observation, Kashyap’s Tina brings to mind any number of disaffected teens, but she is also, at heart, a very good girl. A charming, hip, illustrated coming-of-age tale."  Kirkus Reviews

"A completely charming voice...will delight fans of Sartre and Salinger alike."  Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

"Kashyap perfectly captures the universal angst of high school and puts her own unique, wickedly smart spin on it." Janelle Brown, author of All We Ever Wanted Was Everything

"Kashyap captures the high school universe and articulates teenage angst with a finesse and dry wit that will charm fans of Catcher in the Rye and Juno."  Hyphen Magazine

Children's Literature - Rita Monteiro
The suggestive title should hook a book browser. Tina M., the 15 year-old writer, whose parents are Hindu upper class professionals from India, attends expensive Yarborough Academy in a Southern California location. The diary begins as a class project for her English Honors elective about Jean Paul Sartre. Its purpose is to explore the question "who am I?" by applying his principles of existential philosophy. Tina states right at the opening that she is not one of those girls who write in diaries about boys and popularity; then she proceeds to do just that. On second thought, there is something else on her mind. It is something she thinks about a lot. It is her mouth. Above everything, a mouth kisses. She wishes very much to kiss a classmate Neil Strumminger, a charming skateboarding lady-killer. But how will she get to do this? As this becomes the dominant theme, she proceeds towards her search for personal authenticity, exposing her Chronic Existential Malaise of teenage sexuality. Several recent publications by writers from ethnic groups analyze their adolescent years growing up in America. One of their most important social adjustments is to find workable solutions, when contemporary peer attitudes and norms regarding life goals, sexuality, romance and marriage, clash with the conservative values and religious norms of their families. Kashyap's script is refreshing because she strips away hypocrisy with graceful innuendo and skillful double entendre. Tina, her older brother, a doctor and sister, an architect, are all three born in America and educated at elite academies. Yet Tina sees herself as an alien. Tina, the Indian Princess with innocent eyes, escapes undetected to secret dates, her silent rebellion and dissenting facial expressions, caught skillfully by Araki, her illustrator. A participant in the action, maintaining her observer status, the sharp edge of Kashyap's perceptive irony, unveils the comic inconsistencies of all the actors in her story, skillfully fleshed out by Araki's trenchant portraits. Araki's pop surrealist style, delicate pen and black ink illustrations based on Indian culture and artistic design, expand, point to, or complete Kashyap's comic and satirical insights, which might otherwise be lost. A brief summary of the life and achievements of Sartre, and his lifelong collaborator, Simone de Beauvoir, as lovers and writers would be a valuable counterpoint to references made of male and female sexuality and artistic creativity. A glossary and insightful questions for a book discussion are essential to understand deeper connections linked to dominant themes and illustrations of the god Krishna, Indian religions, Hindu religious scriptures and mythology, and existential philosophy.
Kirkus Reviews
Indian-American high-school student with a thing for Jean Paul Sartre struggles with existential angst in this graphic-novel debut. The youngest daughter of Indian immigrants, 15-year-old Tina Malhotra tries her best to navigate the social minefield that is her progressive Southern California school. Taking solace in her longtime friendship with Alex Leach, a Mormon blonde she has known since fourth grade, Tina is devastated when the sexually advanced Alex decides to dump her to hang out with another, more fashionable girl. Thus begins the P.A.E. (Post Alex Epoch). Taking seriously her ex–best friend's assertion that she lacked "experience," Tina decides to channel her rejection into getting some. Egged on by her ponytailed English teacher Mr. "Moose" Moosewood, she throws herself into a semester English project on existentialism and tries to make friends with other kids. She attends Indian functions with her well-meaning (if clueless) family and crushes on popular skateboarder Neil Strumminger. She lands the lead in a drama department production of Rashomon and is horrified to realize that her first kiss might actually be with her co-star, the revolting Ted Fresh. She joins the "brown people" club. And she learns even more about life—and horse tranquilizers—after attending a decadent house party. All the while she wonders who she really is and how she fits into the world. Sartre's philosophy, it turns out, is a surprisingly useful influence on bright, self-absorbed teenage girls. With her deadpan wit and gift for observation, Kashyap's Tina brings to mind any number of disaffected teens, but she is also, at heart, a very good girl. One cannot help but wonder if her story would resonate more if she had a sharper edge. A charming, hip, illustrated coming-of-age tale.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Tenth Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Keshni Kashyap was raised in Los Angeles, California. She studied literature at Berkeley and film at UCLA. Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary is her first book.

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