Snippets of dialogue between Jacob (The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing) and her family and friends form the basis of this breezy but poignant graphic memoir that takes on racism, love, and the election of President Trump. The bisexual daughter of Indian immigrants, Jacob effectively conveys how the 2016 election impacted LGBTQ folks and people of color in ways that were searing, personal, and often misunderstood (such as that awkward moment when the older gentlemen at her mother-in-law’s dog’s “bark mitzvah” think she’s the help). As her Trump-supporting Jewish in-laws insist they still love her, her six-year-old son wants to know not only if he can turn white like Michael Jackson (and “Did he lose his other glove?”), but how to tell which white people are afraid of brown people. Jacob pastes simple character drawings, cut like paper dolls staring directly at the reader, over grainy photos of New York City, her childhood home in New Mexico, and other locales, emphasizing the contingency of identity. The collage effect creates an odd, immediate intimacy. She employs pages of narrative prose sparingly but hauntingly, as when she learns that a haughty, wealthy woman once lost a child: “in that place where you thought you would find a certain kind of woman... is someone you cannot begin to imagine.” The “talks” Jacob relates are painful, often hilarious, and sometimes absurd, but her memoir makes a fierce case for continuing to have them. (Mar.)
This bold memoir opens with Jacob (The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing) struggling to answer her biracial son's questions about Michael Jackson and his own racial identity before launching into a far-ranging exploration of her coming of age as the daughter of East Indian immigrants, and the role her race played in her romantic and professional life. In sixth grade, Jacob won an essay contest held by the Daughters of the American Revolution only to receive a chilly reception when members of the organization discovered that she wasn't white. Discouraged by a string of unsatisfactory relationships in her early 20s, she considers acquiescing to her extended family's desire that she enter an arranged marriage before meeting and falling in love with her future husband. Jacob presents her story primarily through dialog, illustrated in collages combining simple front-facing drawings of her characters laid over photographs. This technique proves wonderfully versatile, resulting in occasional deadpan hilarity and moments of absolute heartbreak, especially in chapters detailing the anxieties she and her family felt following the 2016 election. VERDICT This brilliant record of Jacob's attempt at navigating personal and political issues in modern America manages the feat of being provocative and entertaining in equal measure. Highly recommended for all collections.—Tom Batten, Grafton, VA
Jacob's sophomore effort (after Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing) is a graphic memoir about race and family, set against the backdrop of the 2016 election and told through a series of conversations. At first, the book riffs off questions that Jacob's biracial six-year-old son, Z, asks. Some queries are simple: "Who is better, Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan?" Others reflect the child's internalization of messages from media and require more complex answers: "Is it bad to be brown?" Z's inquiries prompt memories that push Jacob to dig into her own childhood and behaviors through interactions with her immigrant parents and extended family in India. The author and her husband, Jed, talk about his white male privilege as a Jewish man and his family's conservative politics. Interactions with Jacob's friends allow her to process out loud some of the discussions described in previous scenes. The narrative spans generations, drawing parallels between Jacob and her son but also highlighting the lack of social progress. Aided by the skillful story structure, Jacob's no-holds-barred vulnerability compels reflection and empathy. The unique art style combines photographic backgrounds with illustrations of characters framed in white, like paper cutouts. Characters smartly break the fourth wall, looking directly at readers and inviting them into the narrative. Scenes of Jacob's past relationships with men and women depict nudity but nothing explicit. VERDICT A powerful, multilayered exploration of racial identity development and complicated family dynamics. Timely and necessary.—Alec Chunn, Eugene Public Library, OR
A novelist explores the perils and joys of parenting, marriage, and love in this showstopping memoir about race in America.
When her 6-year-old, half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, started asking complicated questions about Michael Jackson's skin color, Jacob (The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, 2014) faced the challenge of being honest about racism in America without giving him answers that might be too much to handle at such a tender age. The result is this series of illustrated conversations between Z and the author, by turns funny, philosophical, cautious, and heartbreaking. "Every question Z asked," writes Jacob, "made me realize the growing gap between the America I'd been raised to believe in and the one rising fast all around us." These reflections compelled the author to excavate her formative years in New Mexico and, later, in New York as a young writer struggling through her 20s. Jacob grew up navigating a constant stream of expectations from her parents, who emigrated from India to the American Southwest in the middle of the civil rights movement. Particularly moving are the chapters in which Jacob explores how even those close to her retain closed-minded and culturally defined prejudices. With grace and honesty, the author chronicles how she navigated the racist assumptions of an employer and dealt with Indian relatives who viewed her as "a darkie" with no marriage prospects as well as the devastating decision of her Jewish in-laws to vote for Donald Trump. "I feel awful," Jacob explained to her husband. "I feel like they've abandoned me." The memoir works well visually, with striking pen-and-ink drawings of Jacob and her family that are collaged onto vibrant found photographs and illustrated backgrounds. Occasionally the author reuses a drawing to spectacular effect, as when the faces of a white boyfriend and colleague from her past show up in a collage about the responses of white Americans to Trump's candidacy. Told with immense bravery and candor, this book will make readers hunger for more of Jacob's wisdom and light.
The visual echoes between past and present make this extraordinary memoir about difficult conversations all the more powerful.
[I] loved it so so much. So poignant, honest, funny, powerful, and timely, and its themes build in a way that by the end is truly artistically transcendent.”—Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and Eligible
“Among its many virtues, Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir, Good Talk, helps us think through this term [‘person of color’] with grace and disarming wit. The book lives up to its title, and reading these searching, often hilarious tête-à-têtes is as effortless as eavesdropping on a crosstown bus. . . . The medium is part of the magic. . . . The old comic-book alchemy of words and pictures opens up new possibilities of feeling. . . . The people are black and white—except, of course, they’re not.”—Ed Park, The New York Times Book Review
“Good Talk addresses head-on the complexities of being fully American while also being fully Jewish, fully Indian, fully mixed, fully whatever in the era of Trump. . . . Good Talk attempts to answer, with humor and heart, some of the most difficult questions of all.”—Bustle
“[A] showstopping memoir about race in America . . . by turns funny, philosophical, cautious, and heartbreaking . . . Particularly moving are the chapters in which Jacob explores how even those close to her retain closed-minded and culturally defined prejudices. . . . The memoir works well visually, with striking pen-and-ink drawings . . . collaged onto vibrant found photographs and illustrated backgrounds. . . . Told with immense bravery and candor, this book will make readers hunger for more of Jacob’s wisdom and light.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Breezy but poignant . . . [Mira Jacob] employs pages of narrative prose sparingly but hauntingly. . . . The ‘talks’ Jacob relates are painful, often hilarious, and sometimes absurd, but her memoir makes a fierce case for continuing to have them.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A beautiful and eye-opening account of what it means to mother a brown boy and what it means to live in this country post–9/11, as a person of color, as a woman, as an artist . . . In Jacob’s brilliant hands, we are gifted with a narrative that is sometimes hysterically funny, always honest, and ultimately healing.”—Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award–winning author of Another Brooklyn
“Good Talk begins with a child’s innocent questions about race and evolves into an honest, direct, and heartbreakingly funny journey. As a brown-skinned woman married to a Jewish man and the mother of a biracial child, I experienced this book on multiple levels: It broke my heart and made me laugh a helluva lot, but, in the end, it also forced me to ponder whether I have successfully provided the answers necessary to arm my own children against racism in America.”—Lynn Nottage, Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright of Sweat