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Review: Forward

Love is one those forces in this world that has such an immovable power to it. It overcomes anything in front of it. It’s what drives people to take care of their families enduring the monotony of work life. The famous story of Helen Of Troy drove two men to go to war with each other. It’s also one of those forces which shows up in some of the most unexpected times.

One of my dear friends lost his wife to cancer a few years ago, a woman he had known for over 30 years, and as he said many times, the love of his life. This left him empty for many years. Since then he dates but nothing serious. Moving on in life after someone you loved that much is never meant to be easy. In Lisa Maas’ endearing tale of loss and love, Forward, we find two women on separate trails in life who meet and find out that love has left the door open.

We meet Rayanne, a young woman damaged by her last breakup, which was four years ago, as she avoids any semblance of a personal life, burying herself in her work. This doesn’t stop her from daydreaming about women she finds attractive, as her inability to be forward, paralyzes her social interaction and isolates it just her friends and co-workers. We also meet Ali, a woman who had lot her wife a year ago, as she finds it still hard to keep going after this massive loss, as she stays on her mind all the time. She takes long walks with old friends just her mind engaged but heartbreak usually occupies her mind. One day Ali decides to ask a girl she find attractive out.  It goes well for the most part, until she realizes the age gap, one that keeps her from pursing that relationship any further. A chance encounter between Rayanne and Ali at their favorite coffee shop, is when serendipity sets in between these two. Eventually they go on several dates, which were awkward at first, but eventually becomes lovelier for the two, as they slowly fall in love. By Book’s end, though they had some false starts and some pauses, their connection is indisputable, and they are where they are supposed to be, with each other.

Overall, a captivating portrait of the difficulties of dating after you have your heart broken.  The story by Maas is funny, true to life and touching. The art by Maas is compelling. Altogether, a story that shows the reader that love is possible no matter how impossible the situation feels.

Story: Lisa Maas Art: Lisa Maas
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Becoming Unbecoming

The power of #MeToo movement cannot be fully comprehended as with the Black Lives Matter movement, as both represents a long history of being maligned, as old as time. People of color have struggled to deal with the constant discrimination, as famed psychologist, Kevin Nadal, along with some other therapists have coined it as “microaggressions”. This dismissal of the psychological trauma as well as s the constant pressure of society, has made people of color feel invisible, therefore it must be said, “Black Lives Matter”.

The # MeToo movement, has also suffered many indignations, as women, time after time, has to suffer sexual harassment and sexual assault, quiet evils where people rather divert their eyes, than confront the problem. This is where those who hold privilege usually will normally say, “Don’t allow yourself to be offended” or “why did she not come out sooner” or even the tired adage of “pull yourself by your bootstraps”, which are all truculent and lacks the empathy needed to understand the situations they are talking about.  In Una’s Becoming Unbecoming Una we follow a young lady as she faces open gender violence and misery over a choice to have birth control pills.

We meet Una, as she introduces the reader how she grew up and how her high school years started normally, as her interests in boys starts to blossom.  At the same time, a serial killer targeting prostitutes have gripped Yorkshire, the town she grows up in and has everyone scared to leave their homes. Soon Una becomes even more interested in the “birds and the bees”, as she experiments with her curiosity like how does kissing feel, which leads to unwanted attention and slut shaming as his came to be known, which also leads to her missing school and needing therapy. By book’s end, the culmination of the abuse she undertakes, permanently scars her and her family but through therapy and her family’s bond, she comes out stronger.

Overall, a strong indictment that not only confronts slut shaming, but also misogyny, and society’s disregard to women. The stories by Una is both heartfelt, distressing and resonating. The art by Una drives home the powerful messages seen throughout the book. Altogether, a book which pushes the reader to no longer accept these pugnacious attitudes and treat everyone as human.

Story: Una Art: Una
Story: 10 Art: 8.0 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Body Music

The struggles of being single in this world dominated by the need for belonging can be quite tenuous. The institute of marriage, although not a popular still looms large in the expectations of most people for their children. As our parents want us ultimately to be happy, and through marriage they believe, is that door to that happy place. As times change, so do beliefs, and now marriage is no longer the nor, as divorce rates are rising, and being single no longer am anomaly.

As this has become increasingly normal, the challenges for those trying to find someone to settle down with or even enjoy time with, has been kind of difficult. As the paths to finding someone from speed dating to apps to dating websites, makes it somewhat easier, but ultimately it van be cumbersome. Then there is the act of dating, which can be fun but also anxiety ridden. In Julie Maroh’s Body Music, she examines the full spectrum of emotions that comes with dating and the many adventures, and misadventures, that comes with it.

There are more than few standouts in this book, one of them being “Looking out of the Window”, where a stranger looks their window imagining what goes in relationships. In” Playing with Fire”, a writer and a fan, engage in some serious flirtation, in some “Life of Walter Mitty” meets Red Shoe Diaries sequences. In” The Confession”, a somewhat complicated relationship gets some figuring out and well gestated simplification.  In one of the last standouts,” On Mount Royal; Our lives Together”, two kids, a boy and a girl, imagine how if they were married, how their lives would go.

Overall, an excellent intimate and affecting collection of stories that feels real and almost voyeuristic, but in will connect with reader on so many levels. The stories by Maroh are genuine, moving, and heartfelt. The art by Maroh is elegant and vivid. Altogether, a great set of stories will connect with every reader, regardless of their situation.

Story : Julie Maroh Art: Julie Maroh
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 9.9 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Saigon Calling: London 1963-75

When your parents are not born in this country, your view of the holidays, are quite different than most. The country you are born, has their own traditions, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, which I watched every year, up until a couple of years ago, when a family member passed away, and watching it was not quite the same. Then there the traditions, you bring over from the countries where they came from. My mom and her family loved Nochito-Nochita, which most people would recognize as Kris Kringle, but we would usually observe it during Noche Buena, where everyone got to stay up late on Christmas Eve.

My dad and his family also brought their traditions from Trinidad, mostly rooted in music and food, where we listened to Parang, drank sorrel, ponche-de-crème, ginger beer, and ate pastelles, and traditional Trinidadian Christmas fruitcake, which is much tastier then, than what I have had since. Our family ended up adopting some American traditions, but our cultural identity remains intact up to this day. It has not been lost on me, that both my parent families, came from much warmer places, to a country where the summers are not as warm, the winters can b unforgiving, but our lives could be much better. In Marcelino Truong’s vivid second volume of his family’s journey, London Calling, that very reason, is why traverse this part of their journey.

We catch up with the Truongs shortly after they arrive in London, right after the assassination of the South Vietnamese president Diem, as his Dad, was the president’s personal interpreter. The family integrates into proper British society, soaking up the local customs, the culture, tv shows like Doctor Who, and what is always the hardest thing to get used to, the weather. Meanwhile, the family struggles with being away from Vietnam, as the sweeping changes, affects the family they left behind, and his mother struggles with episodes of her bipolar disorder. By the end of the book, just as life, some of the family members met their end sooner than expected and others, when they were supposed to.

Overall, a moving, joyous, and bittersweet odyssey of a clan that lived life to the fullest and despite their trials and tribulations, remember the meaning of family. The story by Truong is raw, intimate, and take you places in your heart, and that will make you embrace life. The art by Truong is vivid, and alluring. Altogether, an excellent book that will have the reader flipping through old photo albums to remember those family who are still around and those are not.

Story: Marcelino Truong Art: Marcelino Truong
Story: 9.1 Art: 8.0 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy NOW!!!!

Review: Castro GN

arsenal-pulp-press-castro-soft-cover-1If there was a reward for good timing, Arsenal Pulp Press will get it for their graphic novel, Castro by Reinhard Kleist. Originally published in English by Selfmade Hero for the British market, it’s now being made available in North America for the first time. The graphic novel has been updated too, to include references to renewed relations between Cuba and the US.

Castro dives into the life of the controversial Cuban leader Fidel Castro (shocked I know based on the title). The graphic novel tracks Castro’s rise, through the revolution, and post revolution life.

The book is narrated by a German journalist named Karl Mertens, who is plunged into the searing heat of pre-revolutionary Cuba in the mid-1950s. He first meets with Castro while the latter is hiding in the mountains, then follows him through the dramatic revolution and his ascent to the presidency that, despite the Bay of Pigs confrontation and decades of international trade blockades, lasts for nearly 50 years. We also witness Castro’s involvement in bloody skirmishes, failed missions, and brutal crackdowns, as well as his interactions with and on behalf of the Cuban people, which reveal as much about his fallible human qualities as they do his legend.

Kleist, who visited Cuba in 2008, captures the excitement of the revolution, and the loss of the sheen in the post revolution, presenting Castro in both positive and negative light and painting a complex picture of one of the most enduring and controversial figures in modern history as well as the politics that swirled around him.

Kleist also doesn’t seem to take sides at all in right and wrong. The story is told through the experiences of the German journalist, and by doing that Kleist gives us the full arc, not romanticizing reality, but showing warts and all. We can see the idealism follow a natural path, and a path I personally have felt in my political career.

Castro is a solid read for those who want to learn more about the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro, and provides a good starting point. Hopefully, it’ll get folks interested to explore more, as reality is one hell of a story.

Story: Reinhard Kleist Art: Reinhard Kleist
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Arsenal Pulp provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Blue is the Warmest Color Graphic Novel Author Not Happy With Film Adaptation. MSM Blows it Out of Proportion.

la-et-jc-graphic-novel-adaptation-blue-is-the--001A graphic novel became a first this week, when its movie adaptation,  La Vie d’Adèle also known as Blue is the Warmest Color, won the Pam D’Or at Cannes this past weekend. However, Julie Maroh, the French writer of the graphic novel has issues with the movie with media reporting that she thinks her work has been “turn into porn.” The movie is about a 15 year old who falls in love with a woman and features graphic sex scenes, an issue that was brought up when it was announced as the winner.

Maroh took to the internets about her thoughts on the film and director Abdellatif Kechiche.

I don’t know the sources of information for the director and the actresses (who are all straight, unless proven otherwise) and I was never consulted upstream. Maybe there was someone there to awkwardly imitate the possible positions with their hands, and/or to show them some porn of so-called ‘lesbians’ (unfortunately it’s hardly ever actually for a lesbian audience).

Because – except for a few passages – this is all that it brings to my mind: a brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn, and [made] me feel very ill at ease. Especially when, in the middle of a movie theatre, everyone was giggling.

The heteronormative laughed because they don’t understand it and find the scene ridiculous. The gay and queer people laughed because it’s not convincing, and [they] found it ridiculous. And among the only people we didn’t hear giggling were the potential guys [sic] too busy feasting their eyes on an incarnation of their fantasies on screen.

As a feminist and lesbian spectator, I cannot endorse the direction Kechiche took on these matters. I’m also looking forward to what other women will think about it. This is simply my personal stance.

If you read any of the articles floating around various websites, you’d think she was condemning the film based on her graphic novel due to male fetishized sex scenes (ie filming the lesbian sex to appeal to a male audience). Reality and truth couldn’t be further from this spinning of reality to create titillating headlines. If you actually read Maroh’s response, she’s quite level headed. She even goes so far as to praise the work.

It’s a master stroke.

As a creator she takes the stance that when the graphic novel she wrote hit stands for people to purchase, it was no longer just her story, but how people interpreted it. This movie is the director’s version and interpretation of the source material. She accepts that as a creator.

Maroh’s issue with the movie is as a woman and lesbian. In fact, in her letter she starts the quoted section with:

Now as a lesbian…

From what was portrayed as some condemnation of the film as a creator, instead turns into someone who doesn’t like how the lesbian sex scenes were handled. She also admits those scenes are only a few minutes of the movie.

I consider that Kechiche and I have contradictory aesthetic approaches, perhaps complementary. The fashion in which he chose to shoot these scenes is coherent with the rest of his creation.

That sounds a world away from what the Guardian would have you believe.

In fact Morah’s response was that of an adult creator who had issues with one particular facet of the film, not the entire film.

Whatever it may be, I don’t see the movie as a betrayal. When it comes to adapting something, I believe that the notion of betrayal should be reconsidered. I lost control of my book as soon as I gave it away to be read. It’s an object meant to be handled, felt, interpreted.

Kechiche went through the same process as any other reader, he entered it and identified in a unique way. As the author, I totally lose my control of that, and it would have never crossed my mind to wait for Kechiche to go in any particular direction, since he made it in his own, from a story that didn’t belong to me as soon as it was sold in a bookstore.

This was a disagreement with a director’s decision, and filming of a scene, but as she points out, it’s up to him to interpret those scenes within his vision.

Graphic Novel Adaptation Blue is the Warmest Color Wins at Cannes

la-et-jc-graphic-novel-adaptation-blue-is-the--001This past Sunday, the French drama Blue is the Warmest Color won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. This is the first graphic-novel adaptation to take the award. The movie is based on Le Bleu Est une Couleur Chaude (Blue is a Hot Color), a graphic novel by Julie Martoh that was published in 2010 in France. The graphic novel will be released in English as Blue Angel this fall by Arsenal Pulp Press.

The movie is written and directed by Abdellatif Kechiche and stars Adele Exarchopulos and Lea Seydoux. It tells the story of a 15-year old girl who falls in love with a woman. Its also drawn controversy due to its explicit depictions of lesbian sex. That should complicate things when the movie is released here in the United States. It has been acquired for distribution here, but no release date has been announced.

This is the second to receive recognition from the the renowned movie festival. Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, tied for the Cannes Jury Prize in 2007.

You can check out some scenes below.