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Drawn & Quarterly at Brooklyn Book Festival - Sunday September 22nd

Updated September 12, 2013


Brooklyn Book Festival is one of the premiere literary festivals of the year. We are thrilled to be participating. You can find Drawn & Quarterly (and all these amazing cartoonists) at booths 141 and 142 in Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza (209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn NY 11201), from 10 am to 6 pm on Sunday September 22nd.

For more details on all of the panels, please visit the Brooklyn Book Festival's website.

11 - 12 pm Miriam Katin + Rutu Modan signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
11 - 12 pm "Myth, History, Fable" panel in the Brooklyn Historical Society Auditorium (128 Pierrepont Street), featuring Anders Nilsen
12 - 1 pm Anders Nilsen and Lisa Hanawalt signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
12 - 1 pm "The World (According to Cartoonists): Border Crossing Comics" panel in the Saint Francis Auditorium, featuring Adrian Tomine and Rutu Modan
1 - 2 pm Adrian Tomine and Rutu Modan signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
1 - 2 pm "Mundane/Profane/Profound: What We Draw About When We Draw Comics" panel in the Brooklyn Historical Society Auditorium (128 Pierrepont Street), featuring Lisa Hanawalt and Miriam Katin
2:15 - 3 pm Art Spiegelman signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
3 - 4 pm Lisa Hanawalt and Miriam Katin signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
3 - 4 pm "The Faces of Brooklyn" panel in the Borough Hall Courtroom (209 Joralemon St.), featuring Adrian Tomine
4 - 5 pm Adrian Tomine and Leanne Shapton signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
4 - 5 pm "Art Spiegelman and Jules Feiffer in Conversation" in the Saint Francis Auditorium
5 - 6 pm Art Spiegelman signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
 
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Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Miriam Katin
Lisa Hanawalt

           Featured products

Letting It Go
My Dirty Dumb Eyes
Optic Nerve 13




  Miriam Katin discusses her book on Jewish News 1

Updated June 5, 2013


"Reconciling Germany with the Nazi part: Miriam Katin discusses her new book 'Letting It Go'"

Jewish News 1, May 31, 2013

In her first book, graphic artist Miriam Katin recounted the story of her and her mother's escape from the Nazis in World War Two-era Budapest. She's now followed up that successful debut with a new book, Letting It Go, about reconciling Germany and its people with the crimes of the past.
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Featured artist

Miriam Katin

           Featured product

Letting It Go




Letting It Go and Marble Season get raves on Comic Book Resources

Updated June 4, 2013


"A Month of Wednesdays: ‘Unico,’ ‘Marble Season’ and more"

by J. Caleb Mozzocco
Comic Book Resources, May 2, 2013

Letting It Go (Drawn and Quarterly): When we last saw Miriam Katin, it was in the pages of her We Are On Our Own, her 2006 graphic memoir about how she and her mother survived the Holocaust, hiding out from the Nazis in the Hungarian countryside. Her new memoir continues that story, by skipping ahead to her current life as a middle-aged artist living in New York City and harboring the deep and bitter prejudices against a city, a country and a people that her childhood understandable instilled in her.

The subject matter is awfully heavy, but it’s presented quite lightly — this is a fun, funny comic about a grown woman coming to terms with the irrational prejudices and bias born of the irrational prejudice and biases of others.

When we meet the Miriam of Letting It Go, she and her husband are seemingly living an idyllic artistic life, he in a room playing his clarinet, she procrastinating starting to draw something. When her grown son says he wants to move to Berlin, she reacts negatively instinctively, and gradually comes to terms with it, visiting him in Berlin, and then returning a second time almost immediately in order to see some of her art hanging at a show there, learning the word vergangenheitsbewältigung (coming to terms with the past) and how to start doing it … if not how to pronounce it.

Katin’s graphic novel is border-less, the “panels” implied ones formed by the consecutive, often overlapping images, giving the artwork a winding, rhythmic flow that moves over the pages like water. That and the somewhat-sketchy nature of the art, in which you can see each and every line that goes into the drawings, gives the book an incredibly intimate feel, as if a reader has simply discovered Katin’s sketchbook, rather than something mass-produced.

In addition to a highly personal story with an almost alarmingly fearless sense of sharing (if I were to ever shit a hotel bed, for example, I doubt I’d tell anyone, let alone draw a four-page sequence of it in a book), with pages of a carnet de voyage embedded within, Letting It Go is full of flights of fancy, including animals making asides, a sequence in which Katin assigns dialogue to the pigeons she’s watching out her window to explain their seemingly random behavior and an explanation of the big bedbug outbreak in New York a few years back.

I read a lot of great new graphic novels this month, some of which are discussed in this post, several more of which aren’t, but this may be the greatest not simply because of the skill with which it was created, but also because of its important personal/univeral subject matter, its deft handling of it and the unexpected, surprise-like nature of its high-quality. I mean, Tezuka or someone with the surname Hernandez producing a really great graphic novel is just par for the course, right? But Katin is still (relatively) new at this particular format, and she’s produced another must read that I suspect many comics readers might not have known they must read, but, believe me, they must.

Marble Season (Drawn and Quarterly): As a critic, I generally dislike assessments of works that posit them as the mathematical result of adding two other works together. You know, like saying “Graphic Novel X is Comic Y meets Comic Z” or whatever. However, in the case of Gilbert Hernandez’s new semi-autobiographical graphic novel, there’s one so accurate that I find it impossible to resist.

Hernandez’s Marble Season is Love and Rockets meets Peanuts.

It isn’t just that the book is focused on children and the minor tragedies, triumphs and, above all, humorous anecdotes that occur in their day-to-day lives. Nor is it that it’s set in the 1960s, and thus is a nostalgic look at a childhood of a particular vintage that may be as alien to many of its readers as the world of Charlie Brown and his pals could be to post-baby boomers reading those comics for the first time in Fantagraphics’ collections. Nor is it that Hernandez rather studiously avoids putting any adult character on-panel, despite that the parents of the children are often just off-panel.

It’s also that Marble Season, although a graphic novel with a clear narrative arc, is presented almost episodically, as if it were occurring in semi-staccato strips. Each page or so is an anecdote of its own, and while the story continues from anecdote to anecdote, the book feels a bit like a comic strip collection, too.

It stars Huey, the middle of three brothers, as he navigates a large cast of child characters of various ages, the youngest being his little brother Chavo, who can’t yet speak, the oldest being teenagers who are coming of age and beginning to notice the opposite sex. All live in the same neighborhood, and all cross paths more or less constantly, like actors in a stage play.

The childhood of marbles, 12-cent comics, collectible bubble gum cards and transistor radios that Hernandez captures is that of my parents, rather than my own, but I’ll be damned if this book didn’t make me nostalgic for their nostalgia....
 
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Featured artists

Miriam Katin
Gilbert Hernandez

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Letting It Go




  Miriam Katin interview with Graphic Novel Reporter

Updated May 2, 2013


"Miriam Katin on Letting It Go"

John Hogan
Graphic Novel Reporter, 28 April 2013

With her intensely personal memoir Letting It Go, Miriam Katin bares her soul and learns how to make peace with the past. As a survivor of the Holocaust, Katin has an avalance of emotions when she learns her son is going to settle in Berlin. Going to visit him there is one way of beginning the process of letting those emotions go. We talked to Katin about the experience of writing this book.

Letting It Go had a huge potential to be sad or morose, and yet you’ve enlivened it with a great deal of humor and spirit. Did it feel sad to write? Or was it, like the book itself, ultimately very happy? It seems, in a profound way that is to your credit, like a very uplifting and positive book.
It started with anger and pain. That's why I needed to "process" the book to work it out. So I used a number of super annoying things in my life. But then, I had trouble putting it in some sort of order to create a readable work. So actually, looking around me I see the things that I love, the river, the sky, the city and it helped me to get things in order to pace the story. On the humor side, it is the way I am; wherever I come into a situation I start to see how funny things are. I did hope that people will put down the book laughing. It seems to work.

At the same time, Letting It Go is incredibly personal and often intensely so. Was it difficult to share so much of yourself?
Somehow, when I got into it, no. I felt that the truly intimate details, embarrassing ones give the story the real strength.

How long did you spend working on the book?

Putting pencil to paper two years.

The art is beautiful. Can you talk a little about your artistic style—how you evoke the colors and shade the drawings so elaborately?

I did not have a "style" until in 2000, when I did my first comic (for Monkeysuit, Vol. 2). It just grew out of drawing that first story. I thought I would sketch and then copy with ink but I fell in love with the pencil drawings, the black to gray, and just went on from there even into color. Lorenzo Mattotti's magnificent coloring gave me true inspiration. Talk about elaborate! (Look up his work.)

What does your son, Ilan, think of the book?
Sort of mystified by it, but he, after all, understands the irony of the situation. His girlfriend, Tinet, who is a prominent Swedish comic artist said, "We are now comic book heroes," and my son wrote, "And I bemused myself with the idea that people will show up dressed up as Tinet and I at comic conventions." I love their humor.

Have you been back to Berlin since the visit depicted in the book?
Oh, yes, we were renting an apartment in Berlin so we can spend more time with Ilan. This, for me is bringing that city down to sort of an everyday thing, ordinary day to day, life here, life there. After all, what is my choice?

Are you working on a new book? Any details you can share?

There is a pile of stuff growing on my table, floor, shelves, but there are just impressions.

What was the most difficult part of truly letting it all go? Do you feel, now, that you really have let it go?

No letting go, but dealing with it by, as I said, coming to terms with my reality.
“Vergangenheitsbewältigung,” as the Germans say.

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Featured artist

Miriam Katin

           Featured product

Letting It Go




CBR praises Miriam Katin's "funny and light-hearted" storytelling

Updated May 2, 2013


"Miriam Katin is Letting It Go"

Alex Dueban
Comic Book Resources, 21 April 2013

Miriam Katin spent much of her life as graphic designer and working in animation, making the shift to become a cartoonist relatively late in life. Her first full length graphic novel was published in 2006, when she was in her sixties. "We Are On Our Own" told the story of Katin and her mother escaping Budapest before the Nazi arrival, hiding out in the countryside during World War II. It was a harrowing, powerful story told in beautiful and haunting black and white drawings.

Katin's newest graphic novel, published by Drawn and Quarterly, is "Letting It Go.' The book is a memoir, but one that recounts recent events perhaps best appreciated after having read her first book. In it, Katin's adult son announces that he intends to move to Berlin, a decision to which she does not respond well. It is the story of her coming to terms with his choice and her own feelings about the city. It is also funny and light-hearted, as playful as her first book was stark. Katin spoke with CBR News about George Cruikshank, cockroaches, what happened after the events in the book and coming to love daily life in Berlin.
 
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Miriam Katin

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Letting It Go




  Shtetl Montreal takes a look at Letting It Go

Updated May 2, 2013


"Letting It Go"

Ariela Freedman
Shtetl Montreal, 24 April 2013

When I went to Poland on the March of the Living when I was sixteen years old, my mother told me to lie. Tell your grandparents you’re going to Israel, she said. It will hurt them to know that you’re going to Poland. They’ll be afraid; they won’t understand. My grandparents were both survivors. They had wrapped their trauma in layers of silence to protect my mother and her children. They would not have been able to stand the idea of their granddaughter going to Poland; they never, ever would have believed that it was safe. It was strange to take this trip–my way of trying to learn part of the story they would not tell–while actively deceiving them. I told them I was going to Israel, which was half of the truth; when I came back, tan and sobered, I fielded my grandmother’s eager request–had I had fun? They were the only people I wanted to talk to about what I’d seen, and they were the only ones I could not tell.

Miriam Katin’s new graphic memoir, Letting It Go, published by local comics press Drawn and Quarterly, tells a similar story about the legacy of the past for Holocaust survivors, and the challenge to that legacy by a younger generation. Her first graphic memoir, We Are On Our Own, narrated her childhood flight with her mother through occupied Hungary in 1944-1945. In a feathery, shadowy dark pencil, the book filters traumatic history through the naïve perspective of a child, and marries a sweet pictorialism with a dark, painful story of escape, suffering and survival. Published when Katin was 63, We Are On Our Own is a troubling, gut-wrenching and beautiful book.

Letting it Go picks up Katin’s story many years later. This book is lighter than her first; done in colored pencil and mostly without panels rather than in black and white, set in the present rather than the anguished past. It focuses as much on mundane anxieties and pleasures as it does on traumatic memory. The story begins with Katin’s search for a new subject for her next book. She wrestles with procrastination, and with the everyday frustrations of city life in Manhattan. Her plot arrives when her adult son skypes her from Berlin. He’s met a woman; he’s moving to Germany; he wants his mother to secure him EU citizenship through helping him acquire a Hungarian passport. Suddenly, Katin is thrown back into a maelstrom of fear, resistance and memory as she confronts her unresolved feelings about Hungary and about the war, and wrestles with the possibility of her son’s return to Europe.

This is heavy material, but Katin’s approach is humorous and ambivalent. Katin is a charming narrator: candid, complex, unvain. She goes to Berlin to visit her son, and is torn between the pleasure she takes in the city, and the darkness of her associations. “The world has changed,” her son says to her, and you can see her struggle with whether or not she can allow Germany to be a changed and less haunted place. She is so distressed that she has psychosomatically induced diarrhea in the hotel, her body expressing all the fear she cannot suppress. One of the more powerful pages in the book shows her giving birth to her son. As walks him to the Hungarian consulate many years later she says, “Somehow every step I take I feel like I’m unravelling. Something like unbirthing.” It is difficult to send her child back into that crucible of terror. Difficult, too, to allow that it may no longer be the same place she fled.

“They have a word for it,” her son Ilan’s German girlfriend says. “Vergangenheitsbewaltigung. Coming to terms with the past.” For Berlin, which has the fastest growing Jewish community in all of Europe, coming to terms with the past is a work of ongoing importance. As Katin’s book suggests, it is going to be a messy and painful process. But there is something waiting on the other side, something less saintly than forgiveness and more insistent than closure, something like letting go.
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Miriam Katin

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Letting It Go




The Paris Review gets a peek inside Miriam Katin's studio

Updated May 1, 2013


"An Enormous Amount of Pictures: In the Studio with Miriam Katin"

Yvgeniya Traps
The Paris Review, 18 April 2013

Miriam Katin’s first book, We Are On Our Own, told the story of her escape, as a child, from the Nazi invasion of Budapest. An attempt to come to terms with her past, to reconcile faith and history, and an elegantly stark tribute to her mother, that graphic memoir was also a beautifully realized work of art. The story it told, retained all the wonder and pain of a child’s impressions, tempered by experience and wisdom.

In her new book, Letting It Go, Katin grapples with her son Ilan’s decision to move to Berlin, a city she identifies with Nazis. An investigation of the price survival exacts, it is also an unabashedly personal investigation of family dynamics, a sequel of sorts to We Are On Our Own.

On a recent March afternoon, I visited Katin, who bears an uncanny resemblance to her cartoon-self, in her Washington Heights apartment, her home for the past twenty-two years and the site of her studio in what used to be her son’s room. She made tea for me and coffee for herself, set out a plate of freshly baked, sugar-dusted cookies, and, with a softly melodious Hungarian accent, recounted the process of working on her books, her feelings about contemporary Berlin, her nine-year-stint living on a kibbutz, her love of the city (“I’m an asphalt flower. Nature is okay, it’s good. But I like asphalt,” she said), and what it was like to be the oldest employee at MTV, where she worked on Beavis and Butthead and Daria.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 12.55.21 PM

The first book stood on its own, a story from A to Z, a start and a finish. Now this story, this new book, is so personal. And it really depends on the first one. I think it would be hard, just getting to it, to say, That’s interesting. It’s more fragmented and extremely personal. And vulgar. And dirty. I didn’t hold anything back.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 12.55.58 PM

My husband had no problem with this, with Berlin. When I came to America, you know, World War II, I did not have any idea that they were fighting in Japan, in the far East. My husband’s family, they were all cursing the Japanese, Pearl Harbor. I had no idea what that was. To me, World War II was Europe, all of us around there.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 12.56.49 PM

We went to Berlin for the first time in 2009. I think Ilan came up with the idea in 2008. He came for a visit, and then we decided to take a trip to the Baltic countries, which ended up with three days in Berlin. This was perfect. Because it would just sort of touch the place.

Last year, last June, we rented an apartment in Berlin for a few weeks. So, what is it now, everyone asks me, did you let it go, the hatred? And I say, Well, no, I didn’t. But I have to admit that Berlin is a different city than I could have imagined. And I’m turning this whole business just into life lived every day. Life here, life in Berlin. We took an apartment in what used to be East Berlin. And it’s a huge apartment building, huge block, like the old Communist blocks. And leave it to the Germans—unlike the Baltic countries, they really modernized it. I mean, it’s fabulous. But then I sit there, on the balcony, and it’s a beautiful view, all of Berlin, really a nice place. And then I see these old Germans. The one with the potbelly, and the other one, smoking every morning, and the woman watering flowers. And I always go like, How old are these people? Oh yeah, they are old enough. But we have our favorite supermarkets, our favorite place to do the laundry. So it’s becoming a life.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 12.58.32 PM

I was constantly jotting down thoughts, taking pictures, buying books. It was very difficult to start. I thought it was very hard to do the first book, because there was a lot of emotional stuff there. But it was a story—this could not be the same thing. This was not just a story.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 1.04.27 PM

When I start a project, when I finally really get down to, I’m going to do this job, I really clock myself. I get up early, I come in here. And then if you get lucky, like I was a few times, if you get a contract and a deadline, then you’re really in it, and, as you go along, everyone really starts to hate you. Because you don’t have anything to do with them, you must finish this. They really want you to be happy and succeed, but then again you’re not available to you mother, your husband. But yeah, I do, I come in here, and sit down, and work and work and work. And I thought, each time I finished a big job, I thought, I’m into it, I’m so into it now, I’ll keep going. And I sit down and start the next one. But then I realize that I am exhausted. And I find excuses. And so this must be it. I’m totally exhausted and drained.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 1.07.58 PM

I think and draw. I don’t write down the story or anything like that. I think most comic artists … well, I don’t know. But I think and I draw. And the first time I did this, I made these little drawings. But here, in this book, it was very different. I didn’t want to spend too much time, so I wanted to directly do it on the page, the way I planned, the size of it. I wanted to be more spontaneous.

Actually, I started regular panels. And then I thought I’d do it in crayon, so that it would be immediate. And I thought, maybe, at some point, I’ll do it in ink. And then I thought, Okay, I can’t. What happened was, as I said, this was written in real time, with an enormous amount of emotion and pressure and a lot of sort of hatred. I didn’t have the patience for ink or watercolor. I just didn’t have the patience with the various time-consuming things, and I said to myself, I still love pencil. And I just had to run with it. I couldn’t do little frames and squeeze things into the frames. I just went wilding into the story, and it actually worked.

My first comics that I did, the very first ones, I did them on tracing paper first, and I thought they were so alive, I didn’t want to start copying. So I scanned them into Photoshop, and I just cleaned them there. And then I did a few that way. And when they commissioned the book, I really thought I should do it on paper. And I was really lucky—here is the whole thing, the first book. I was very lucky—it was asked to go to a lot of exhibitions, and a lot of people wanted to buy it. And it’s nice to get some money like that. So I realized there’s a really great importance to it. Somehow you copy something, it’s second generation, something is lost.

I just got back all the originals for this book. It’s so nice to have them home, I missed them. I missed them a lot. I always like going to the shelf and looking at them and fondling the paper.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 1.11.17 PM

I took pictures for this. And really I used them. It’s all in there. This is an enormous amount of pictures.

But I didn’t use the pictures of my husband. Frankly, he’s too good-looking. I needed an old, cantankerous Jew.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 1.12.21 PM

I was working at MTV on a show called Daria. And on the same floor, somebody made this movie called Joe’s Apartment. That must have been the worst movie in the world, because it played maybe three times in New York. But the creator, the director, made up this roach, and I was sitting right next to it. And I loved that roach so much. And everyone knew it. Well, the movie flunked. And they said, Let’s give the roach to Miriam.

When I was hired to work at MTV, I get a phone call, and she says to me, this girl, “This is human resources. You’ve made a mistake on your birthdate.” And I say, “Oh, well, I always make mistakes. What did I do?” And she says, “Well, you wrote you were born in 1942.” I say, “Yes?” So she says, “I’m sure you meant 1982.” “No.” “1972?” “No.” Now she’s getting spooked. I mean, everyone around there is an infant. I say, “Look, let me make it easier for you, I was born in 1942, and I am still alive and working.” She was totally freaked out. It was a such a great story, MTV used it in training sessions.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 1.13.09 PM

The last time I was in Hungary was in 1996, with both of my parents. My father died a year later. It’s changed. To me it was a beautiful city, even when every third house was bombed out. We loved our city. My first story—I did short works—it always started with the beloved city. Because we loved it. And my parents, still, their happiest times, they enjoyed themselves more than anywhere else in Budapest. So all the stories, they started with the beloved city. We thought it was our city too. But it turned out it wasn’t. They said, No. It’s not.

Sometimes people ask me what am I? Israeli? Hungarian? A citizen of the world? And I say, No, I’m American. I’m American, because this was the most welcoming country … I ended up here, I came to visit, and I met my husband. I went to Bloomingdale’s, and I said, I’m not leaving, I’m staying right here. It looks very good.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 1.14.33 PM

It’s the tree of life. When they sent me the proofs for Letting It Go, I read the back of the book, it said, “Miriam Katin is living in Washington Heights with her husband and cats.” I said, What cats? And Drawn & Quarterly said, We just thought you have cats. And I said, No, no. No cats. But I have a giant Ficus benjamina tree. So everywhere now, “Miriam Katin lives with her husband and a giant Ficus benjamina tree.”
 
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Miriam Katin

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Letting It Go




  Letting It Go one of Boing Boing's picks for March 2013

Updated April 11, 2013


From "Comics Rack: Boing Boing's comics picks for March 2013"

Brian Heater
Boing Boing, 5 April 2013

(...) I had the strange experience of running into Art Spiegelman on the streets of Cologne, Germany over the summer. Strange because we were there for very different reasons, and I’d had no idea what brought the cartoonist to the outdoor mini-mall built around a centuries old church that is Cologne. Stranger still was the experience of seeing him speak at a local museum upon his invitation, monitoring how the audience reacted to the artist’s “holocaust denial” cartoons. And while I’d certainly never dream of equating experience as a Jew born in America toward the end of the 20th century to those of Katin, an artist born in Hungary during the second World War, I’ve some small sense of appreciation for the baggage we bring to our own concepts of modern Germany.

As its name poetically implies, Letting Go is an attempt to release some of that, an act she understandably flatly refuses on hearing her sons decision to move to Berlin. Katin illustrates life after that decision in color pencil sketches, telling the tale of daily minutia, reflection and the occasional flashback, all well aware that, for better and worse, lifelong opinions rarely change overnight. (...)
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Miriam Katin

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Letting It Go




Miriam Katin at the Blue Met Festival

Updated April 4, 2013


"Miriam Katin: Letting it Go"

Gregory McCormick
Azure Scratchings, 29 March 2013

I've long been a fan of comics in novel or memoir form and so I was really happy when Drawn & Quarterly contacted us about doing an event at the Festival with Miriam Katin's new book, Letting it Go. Katin was born during WWII in Hungary but her work simmers with youthful and contemporary rhythms.

In Letting it Go, the author/artist (the book is a memoir) is confronted with her fears and anger, traumas from her past which centre around Berlin after her grown son informs her that he is moving there with his girlfriend. The book unfolds in these emotional bursts as Katin works through all her charged feelings that linger from her experience as a young girl, her prejudices against the city, her worries for her son.

It's beautifully drawn with a (what seems to me) intentionally amateur style (almost like it was taken directly from a sketchbook and publishes), naive, blunt coloured pencil drawings and no panels. But in the pages are gorgeous sketches of New York, of Berlin, of the past, and one gets a real sense of Katin's personality and her contemporary life as a New Yorker.

I am really excited that we can host Miriam for the book party at Blue Met. Her event, which will also feature Drawn & Quarterly Editor-in-Chief, Chris Oliveros, will be held at Hotel 10 on April 28 at 1:00 p.m.

And, hey, hey, it's free to attend!
 
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Miriam Katin

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Letting It Go




  The AV Club on Letting it Go: "moving, funny"

Updated April 4, 2013


From "New comics releases include a trio of great graphic novels and the rebirth of Constantine"

Noel Murray
The A.V. Club, 26 March 2013

(...) Miriam Katin’s 2006 memoir We Are On Our Own covered her and her mother’s escape from the Nazis, and how the experience affected Katin’s faith in God. It’s a powerful book—especially given that it was Katin’s first-ever graphic novel, completed in her early 60s—but the follow-up, Letting It Go (D&Q), is even better, documenting Katin’s anxiety when she learns that her son wants to reclaim his Hungarian citizenship and then settle in Berlin. Katin, who still bears a grudge against both her home country and Germany, travels back to Europe with her husband, and isn’t sure what to make of how these countries choose to remember the horrors of the past. Katin’s colored pencils have a grounded quality, enhanced by her focus on the everyday details of her life at its best and worst, from the splendor of her New York City home to a graphic, untimely bout of diarrhea. Letting It Go is a moving, funny look inside the artist’s thought processes as she reckons with her past and decides whether she’s going to live out her golden years in a spirit of resentment or forgiveness… (...)
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Miriam Katin

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Letting It Go




Paste review of Letting It Go

Updated April 4, 2013


"Letting It Go by Miriam Katin"

Hillary Brown
Paste Magazine, 19 March 2013

When my copy of Letting It Go arrived in the mail, the book looked (appropriately) like it had endured a war: its body bent in half, spine cracked, and edges brutalized. The cover art didn’t exactly allude to an uplifting experience either, featuring a woman releasing a balloon emblazoned with a swastika. But the pages inside revealed author Miriam Katin’s finely-executed colored pencils and a story about coming to terms with the weight of history, an experience that surprisingly manages to keep a light tone despite its basis in genocide. It’s a careful balance illustrated by the contrast between cover and interior (or by hap, the difference between the state of my copy and the delicacy of what it contained); what might seem heavy doesn’t have to be. You can let it go.

A sequel of sorts to Katin’s first book, We Are on Our Own, which captured her childhood hiding from Nazis in Hungary, Letting It Go shows its author dealing with her American son’s decision to move to Germany, a land she still sees as cursed. Katin’s style is gentle without feeling overly sentimental, characterized by loose panels and soft, unbounded edges, even when her images are laid into grids. Her depiction of herself as a mild hysteric thankfully doesn’t stray into Cathy territory. You’ve gone far beyond “Ack! Chocolate!” when you confess a loss of bowel control as a psychosomatic expression of suppressed fear. The narrative falls a bit on the loose side, remembering two separate trips from the United States to Berlin (one to visit her son; one to attend an art opening a few months later), but autobiographical works that stick closely to the truth frequently have this drawback.

Overall, the book is expressive, musical, and thoroughly original. Katin manages to find something new in the well-ploughed fields of Holocaust and post-Holocaust literature by sticking to a story invested in revelation, not cliché.
 
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Miriam Katin

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Letting It Go




  The Arty Semite interviews Miriam Katin

Updated April 4, 2013


Graphic Novelist Returns to Berlin

Michael Kaminer
The Art Semite, 19 March 2013

Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/the-arty-semite/173140/graphic-novelist-returns-to-berlin/#ixzz2PWjyIsMW

Miriam Katin appears naked in one panel of “Letting It Go,” her new graphic memoir about coming to terms with her past as a Holocaust survivor. But the rest of this novel-length confessional comic is even more revealing.

Her first full-length work since 2006’s award-winning Holocaust memoir “We Are On Our Own,” “Letting It Go” chronicles Katin’s emotionally charged visit to Berlin after her son and his girlfriend relocate there. Katin’s fury over the move mellows to resignation, and finally acceptance, though her emotions surrounding her own history remain ambiguous. The book spares no one, least of all Katin, who unflinchingly depicts her self-doubt, angst, and bodily functions. Her cartooning style is masterful, maintaining classical elements while subverting genre conventions into a singular work that’s fluid, vibrant, and potent. It’s also hilariously funny.

Katin’s work is part of the exhibit “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women,” which I co-curated and which the Forward is sponsoring. The traveling exhibit will open at the Jewish Museum of Florida in Miami Beach in October. Katin spoke to The Arty Semite from her home in New York.

Michael Kaminer: “We Are On Our Own” was published in 2006. Why so long between books?

Miriam Katin: I guess first it was exhaustion. I was ready for a next project and then I allowed time to pass, luxuriating in smaller commissions. Enjoying some of the recognition that was a total surprise.
Also at that time we had to take up the care of my mother-in-law and I was glad that I had no great deadlines.

The book is called “Letting It Go,” but there isn’t a cathartic moment when you let anything go. Can you explain?

Oh yes, this is a question that is coming up all the time. They ask me pointedly: “Sooo???”
And I am very quiet and taking my time in saying, well, no. It looks like I should let go but it is just a valiant try, or perhaps a quest, and surely a way to go on living with this reality.

There is a getting-used-to factor and sort of making the experience of Berlin and Germany an ordinary everyday thing. Bringing it down to just “life here, life there.” Working the survival instinct.

That’s me.

What’s your thought process when you’re deciding whether to depict certain scenes — like the diarrhea incident at the Berlin hotel? Do you ever think, “This is too much, I have to tone it down or leave it out”?
I take courage from other women artists — the audacity of Lynda Barry, Phoebe Gloeckner, Diane Noomin and of course Alison Bechdel. Not for a moment I thought to leave that scene out because the very drama of it in my life that night, I believe, gave it power.

Yes, my husband went ” Oh. How can you? ” And that’s the point.

You’re quite merciless on yourself in the book; everyone else makes it sound like you’re
overreacting to your son’s move to Berlin, including your mother. Is that how it all played out?

Yes. It was like an ultimate revenge of Hitler on me. I did not exaggerate any of it.

Was the process of writing the book, in fact, a letting-go?

Well, I had to deal with it somehow, so any other plan was immediately dropped away. From the time in 2009 when we decided to take a trip that included Berlin, for only a few days, my brain was writing and drawing. What else was there to do? Our friends insisted that I will fall in love with Berlin but nobody had the burden that I had. Would I let go? I didn’t know.

I just went into the process of recording, drawing, writing, taking every picture with the plan of maybe using it.

How did your husband and son feel about their portrayals in the book?

My husband Geoff — a great man. Well, he sort of understood it, did not quite agree with my problem but I guess he humored it. My son acted kind of puzzled but tried to understand. After all he knew the background. The portrayal? They are ok with it.

What does a graphic memoir offer you, as an author
and artist, that a conventional autobiography would not?

I guess I am an artist of sorts. An illustrator, I hoped. These stories of my family were like a running narrative in my mind through my life. An unwanted, uninvited presence.

They begged to be told. But I am not a writer. And I thought, who needs another Holocaust book anyway?

Then when I first discovered the comic medium I thought that with drawing and some writing I can tell my story.

Even though the book is about coming to terms with your past, there are no flashbacks to your experiences. Why is that?

This book was created in “real time.” I was creating it while it was going on. The past is my first book. This one will not make much sense without reading the first one.

What’s next for you?

Ambient Pleasures. No kidding. I hope.
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Miriam Katin

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Letting It Go




Miriam Katin interviewed by Dig Boston

Updated April 4, 2013


"EARTH PRIME TIME: MIRIAM KATIN ON ‘LETTING IT GO’ AT BROOKLINE BOOKSMITH 3.19.13"

Clay Fernald
Dig Boston, 19 March 2013

orn in Hungary during World War II, Miriam Katin is a child of the war. In 2006 Drawn and Quarterly published her first graphic novel at the age of 63, her story of surviving the Holocaust, We Are on Our Own. Miriam signs her new book about her relationship with her family and the country that caused so much pain at Brookline Booksmith on Tuesday, March 19 at 7 p.m. The followup to her first acclaimed graphic novel is called Letting It Go. We had the honor of asking Miriam some questions about her work and how she got in to the intimidating art of autobiographical graphic storytelling at an age when many others might consider retiring.

DIGBOSTON: How did you get started working on comics after your career as an animator?

MIRIAM KATIN: It was around 2000 and I was working in Disney’s New York studio. Some young animators who did comics decided to self publish their stories and they started a series of anthologies titled Monkeysuit.

They asked me if I had anything to contribute and in my desk, for ten years I had a rough for a short comic. I competed that story and they published it. It received very favorable reviews and this encouraged me to continue.

Were you been compelled to write and draw these stories of your life for historical, personal or artistic reasons? I will accept all of these as fine reasons!

The stories my mother told me about the war, about our family and our survival were like a daily running narrative in my mind through my life. An uninvited, unwanted presence. They begged to be told. But I am not a writer (as I don’t have one language good enough to write a book with) and also I thought, ”Who needs an other Holocaust novel”?

Your first book, We Are on Our Own tells of your family’s survival of World War II. Letting It Go deals with your pangs of motherhood, as your son reveals to you his desire to move to Berlin. You’ve illustrated your initial reaction and gradually a slow acceptance and a move toward being supportive of your son and his girlfriend. What helped you the most with the acceptance?

It took one whole year to come around to help him. During that year my cousins from Argentina told me (it is in the book) that they gave the right for German citizenship to their children. This shocked me but also made me think. Perhaps my denial will not help him but possibly endanger his existence in Europe. So it was a reluctant and painful decision.


Your son asking you to help get him EU citizenship seemed to have been the first major roadblock. Was it easier for you after helping him out with that?

No, it looks like it would be, it should be but it is not. However as I do accept that children will go far away from parents (I did that too) I have to live with it and make the most of it. That’s how I am anyhow. Survival instinct you know.

Eventually you and your husband find yourself in Berlin. Had you ever imagined such a visit? Does your son still live there and do you make an effort to visit?


I would hear very positive and interesting news but I would just react: “Yeah. Right. Ha ha. Just wait.” Well, as my husband does not have the problem with Berlin that I do we are planning to visit from time to time. My son still lives there and loves it.

The book is beautifully rendered in colored pencil. Are you a fan of comic art and storytelling?

I had nothing to do with comics until my boys, as I always say, raised me on Tin Tin. We lived in Israel at the time. In the US Tin Tin was not known and my kids were not into super heroes. Eventually Tin Tin became my Bible. In Israel I was asked to do a series of comics following an animated commercial I worked on for saving energy. So, I just did it and I was hooked. I loved it.

The scope and storytelling on your page is amazing. A strong-point in your art as well are how well you convey emotion with facial expression and color. My favorite pages are when you decide to spend some serious money on yourself and buy a pair of Oakley sunglasses. Ahh, a temporary shopping therapy session for someone with heavy news on your mind.

They say that animation and comics [are] actually acting. It is so true.

Do you process any of your work with the computer, or is everything, literally down to the letter produced in colored pencil?

The first short stories I drew on tracing paper and I loved the immediacy of the first pencil strokes. So I just scanned those into Photoshop where I cleaned them up. There is always something lost of the spontaneity and passion of the roughs.

The first ones only exist in Photoshop.

Have you considered drawing stories of a different nature, such as children’s books or fantasy? I love the personality you have given some of God’s creatures in your book.

I illustrated a number of children’s books and Ng Suat Tong, publisher of the Rosetta anthologies from Singapore, commissioned to do a comic story he wrote. I enjoyed working on it but Chris Oliveros (Drawn and Quarterly Publisher) told me that the strongest works are created where the writer is also the one who is drawing.


There are exceptions like the Aya series by Abouet & Oubrerie. As for when I will run out of the stories of my life (what some unkindly critics call “navel gazing”) ah … there will always be something.

Miriam, thanks so much for your time!

 
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Miriam Katin

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Letting It Go




  Book Culture: Miriam Katin's "voice and perspective like none other found in the medium"

Updated April 4, 2013


From "March : Mysteries, the Middle East, and Miriam Katin"

Book Culture, 3 March 2013

(...) Miriam Katin discusses her book Letting it Go on March 21st at 7pm. A Holocaust survivor and mother, Katin’s world is turned upside down by the news that her adult son is moving to Berlin, a city she’s villainized for the past forty years. Miriam Katin’s storytelling and artistic skills in Letting it Go allow her to explore a voice and perspective like no other found in the medium. Mariam Katin was born in Hungary during WWII. She immigrated to Israel in 1957, where she served in the Israel Defense Forces as a graphic artist. She worked as a background designer for Ein Gedi Films in Israel as well as MTV Animation, and Disney Studios. (...)
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Miriam Katin

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Publishers Weekly: Letting It Go is a "Heartfelt but still playful account"

Updated April 4, 2013


"Comics Review: Letting It Go by Miriam Katin"

Publishers Weekly, 25 February 2013

Animator Katin’s incomparable graphic memoir, We Are On Our Own, followed her childhood flight across Hungary with her mother, fleeing the Nazis in the last days of World War II. In this, her long-awaited and only slightly lesser follow-up, we find Katin as a neurotic middle-aged procrastinator battling cockroaches and her husband’s clarinet playing in their New York apartment. Their son Ilan has decided to move to Berlin and wants Miriam to use her Hungarian ancestry to help him apply for E.U. citizenship. But the idea that her son will live in the heart of the old Reich dredges up a storm of fury and confusion for Miriam: “This is like handing my baby over to the wolves.” The sketchy memoir that follows is Katin’s heartfelt but still playful account of coming to terms with the Holocaust’s legacy. It is a rich vein to mine, illustrated with great looping eddies of colored pencil. But Katin is less able to generate life outside own head, her husband and son being particularly flat characterizations. One exception is the too-short inclusion of a gruff, wise Turkish poet friend from Israel in the 1960s, whom she calls decades later for advice.
 
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Miriam Katin

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Letting It Go




  LA Times calls Letting It Go "Exhilarating"

Updated April 4, 2013


"Miriam Katin's graphic novel is portrait of an artist's inner life"

David L. Ulin
LA Times, Jacket Copy, 21 February 2013

Miriam Katin’s “Letting It Go” (Drawn & Quarterly: 160 pp., $24.95) is my kind of graphic memoir: loose, impressionistic, a portrait of the artist’s inner life. Keyed by the decision of her adult son Ilan to take up permanent residence in Berlin, it is, in part, the story of her coming to terms, at long last, with her legacy as a survivor of the Holocaust.

But without minimizing this part of the story, “Letting It Go” is much more than that — a meditation on love, on family, and an inquiry into art. Functioning in some sense as a sketchbook, Katin’s story is delightfully open-ended, less a look back at a particular situation than a series of reflections from the trenches of her life as it is lived.

Katin opens the book with a riff on procrastination, quoting Proust (“Ten times over, I must essay the task, must lean down over the abyss. And each time the natural laziness which deters us from every difficult enterprise … has urged me to leave the thing alone and drink my tea and to think merely of the worries of today … which let themselves be pondered without effort or distress of mind”) from “Swann’s Way.” It’s an ingenius strategy, establishing her work in a tradition of literary self-reflection, a point she deepens by invoking Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” as well.

For Katin, these are touchstones, expressions of humanity that stand in contrast to the inhumanity she faced during World War II. They are also metaphors for the intractability of her project (both artistic and personal) and the importance of art not as something rarefied but as a fundamental expression of what it means to be alive.

The inclusion of Kafka is especially instructive, for Katin must undergo a metamorphosis of her own. When Ilan tells her that he plans not only to live in Berlin, but to apply for Hungarian citizenship, it is as if she has been cast back to her childhood: “Over my dead body! They wanted to kill us!” she declares.

Still, as the book progresses, Katin has no choice but to confront her unresolved hurts, her biases, and contrast them to her devotion to her son. “Listen Miriam,” a friend tells her. “You are not protecting him. If he wants to live there, he will anyway.”

This is the point of “Letting It Go” — that we have no control. We are at the mercy of our experience, of our children, and all we can do is try to come to terms. It’s an idea Katin explored in her first graphic memoir, “We Are on Our Own,” which traced her experiences during the war.

“Letting It Go” grows out of that book, adapting its rough-hewn, largely black and white aesthetic in places, when Katin looks back on her past. More often, though, she opts for a careening style, color drawings cascading one upon the other in a flurry of movement and light.

There are no panels here, just images that bleed together, as if life were too full, too chaotic, to be bound within the frames of traditional comics art.

It’s exhilarating, making “Letting It Go” a more open work, hopeful even, despite the conflict at its core. This is a book about survival, about perseverence, although it comes to us with no illusions that anything (our relationships, our work, our very selves) is built to last.

Rather, what Katin means to tell us is that all we have is the moment, a moment informed by, but distinct from, both the present and the past. “You think you’ve seen everything,” she writes, “and then you still haven’t.”

The art of living, in other words, is the art of letting go.
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Miriam Katin

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Letting It Go




Booklist praises Miriam Katin's "remarkable storytelling"

Updated April 3, 2013


Gordon Flagg
Booklist, 1 March 2013

Katin, a Holocaust survivor who told the harrowing story of her family’s survival in her 2006 graphic memoir, We Are on Our Own, carries an understandable prejudice against all things German; so when her son Ilan announced that he was moving to Berlin to live with his girlfriend there, it set off a visceral, panicked reaction that she recounts in this wise and funny work. With wry self-awareness and sardonic humor, Katin depicts her reluctant, resentful efforts to deal with her son’s decision as she makes a pair of visits to the city, one to visit Ilan and another to attend an art show featuring her comics work (as her ever-patient musician husband observes, “If Barenboim can be there, so can you”). She even learns the German word for her struggle: vergangenheitsbewältigung—coming to terms with the past. Katin eschews the use of panel borders for her gorgeously expressive color-pencil drawings, giving the narrative an irresistible flow. As well-told as it was, much of the power of We Are on Our Own came from its inherently dramatic story; this more nuanced and inward-looking tale is an even greater testament to Katin’s remarkable storytelling abilities.
 

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Miriam Katin

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Letting It Go




  National Post calls Katin's Letting it Go, "the work of her unbounded imagination"

Updated January 16, 2013


Winter Culture Preview: Books
Mike Doherty, Special to National Post | Jan 6, 2013 2:00 PM ET | Last Updated: Jan 4, 2013 1:52 PM ET

Curl up on the sofa with a warm cup of tea and one of these tomes, hitting shelves before the snow melts:

Feb. 5 Miriam Katin, Letting It Go There are very few panels in Miriam Katin’s pencil-drawn comics: Scenes meld together and emerge out of each other, the work of her unbounded imagination. Her first graphic-novel memoir, We Are on Our Own (2006), which she published at age 63, told of her harrowing escape, with her mother, from the Nazis in Hungary. This is a sequel of sorts, relating how her son’s decision to move to Berlin forced her to confront deep-seated anger. It’s thoughtful and unflinching but also frequently funny, and drawn with considerable grace.
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Miriam Katin

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We Are On Our Own
Letting It Go




Core female cartoonists as named by Booklist

Updated March 27, 2008


My New York Diary. By Julie Doucet. 2d ed. 2004. Drawn & Quarterly, paper, $15.95 (9781896597836).

With brutal honesty, Doucet, creator of the underground comic Dirty Plotte, looks back on her harrowing bohemian days in Manhattan. Her loopy, cluttered drawings and postfeminist insouciance lend her account improbable charm.

One Hundred Demons. By Lynda Barry. 2002. Sasquatch, $24.95 (9781570613371); paper, $17.95 (9781570614590).

This collection of long stories by the creator of the weekly Ernie Pook’s Comeek is based on an art exercise that Barry uses to exorcise personal demons, among them, old boyfriends, grandmas, liars, hippies, the 2000 election, and her own bad behavior.

Summer of Love. By Debbie Drechsler. 2002. Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95 (1-896597-37-8); paper, $16.95 (1-896597-65-3).

Ninth-grader Lily has moved with her family to a new community and must find her place in her new high school’s pecking order. Drechsler compellingly captures the angst, insecurities, and petty feuds typical of the teen years as Lily tries to make friends and sexually awakens.

We Are on Our Own. By Miriam Katin. 2006. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 (9781896597201).

The first graphic novel by 63-year-old animator Katin recounts how she and her mother faked their deaths and fled Budapest after the Nazis occupied it. Passages set decades later reveal that Katin’s experiences deprived her of any religious faith to pass on to her child.

 
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Debbie Drechsler
Miriam Katin
Lynda Barry

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My New York Diary
We Are On Our Own
What It Is




  D+Q at San Diego Comic-Con

Updated July 20, 2007


Miriam Katin, Joe Matt, Guy Delisle (making his first U.S. appearance!), and James Sturm are D+Q's guest artists at San Diego this year. They'll be on various panels and signing at our booth #1529. The schedule is as follows:

Thursday, July 26

1:00 - 3:00 Miriam Katin signing

3:00 - 5:00 Joe Matt signing

4:00 - 5:00 Room 3 "Spotlight on Guy Delisle." Moderated by Tom Spurgeon.

5:15 - 7:00 Guy Delisle signing

Friday, July 27

11:30 - 12:30 Room 3 "Spotlight on Joe Matt"

12:45 - 2:45 Joe Matt signing

1:30 - 2:30 Room 3 "Spotlight on Miriam Katin" Slide Show and moderated by Shaenon Garrity.

2:45 - 4:00 Miriam Katin signing

4:00 - 5:45 Guy Delisle signing

4:30 - 5:30 Room 4 "New Voices in Graphic Novels"
with Miriam Katin, Christian Slade, David Peterson, George O'Connor, Jamie Tanner, and Leland Myrick.

4:30 - 5:30 Room 24A "Center for Cartoon Studies"
with James Sturm and Tom Devlin

5:45 - 7:00 James Sturm signing

Saturday, July 28

11:00 - 1:00 James Sturm signing

11:30 - 12:30 Room 3 "Reality-Based Graphic Novels"
with Joe Matt, Guy Delisle, Miriam Katin, Rick Geary and Alison Bechdel.

1:00 - 3:00 Joe Matt signing

1:30 - 2:30 Room 4 "Great American Comic Strips"
with Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics, IDW, and Classic Comics Press

3:00 - 5:00 Guy Delisle signing

5:00 - 7:00 Miriam Katin signing

Sunday, July 29

10:00 - 12:00 Miriam Katin signing

12:00 - 2:00 Joe Matt signing

2:00 - 4:00 Guy Delisle signing

PLUS, the D+Q booth will have a ton of great convention deals as usual, and every purchase gets a FREE Shortcomings poster, in anticipation of Adrian Tomine's long-awaited graphic novel, coming in October. We'll have lots of postcards & Lynda Barry's Free Comic Book Day Activity Book as well, so come say hello to friendly D+Q-ers Jessica, Rebecca and Tom, and check out our new stuff, and the classics too.

DEBUT titles will include Berlin #13 by Jason Lutes, and James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems.

I'd post the address of the convention center, but just go to San Diego and follow the stormtroopers and men in tights, you can't miss it...Special thanks to Jackie Estrada, Sue Lord and Gary Sassaman for always being extremely helpful, supportive and professional to D+Q and our cartoonists.

Featured artists

Joe Matt
Guy Delisle
Miriam Katin

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James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems
Berlin #13




Miriam Katin on NPR

Updated April 16, 2007


Miriam Katin
Studio 360

Miriam Katin was only a toddler when she and her mother hid from the Nazis in the Hungarian countryside. Now, more than 60 years later, she’s turned their harrowing story of escape and survival into a graphic memoir called We Are On Our Own. Produced by Michele Siegel.
 
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Miriam Katin

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We Are On Our Own




  Aya, We Are On Our Own and Abandon the Old in Tokyo picked for Booklist's top 10 Graphic Novels

Updated March 30, 2007


Top 10 Graphic Novels
Olson, Ray
609 words
15 March 2007
Booklist

Abouet, Marguerite and Oubrerie, Clement
Aya

Oubrerie suffuses Abouet's gently nuanced story with the ambient sunlight of the late-1970s Ivory Coast, where smart young Aya begins to find her way despite less-forward-thinking friends and family.

Katin, Miriam
We Are on Our Own

Animator Katin brings high artistic skills to a first graphic novel recounting her and her mother's escape from Nazi-occupied Budapest and her mother's search for her husband after the war.

Tatsumi, Yoshihiro
Abandon the Old in Tokyo
Tr. by Yuji Oniki. Ed. by Adrian Tomine

Comics-for-adults pioneer Tatsumi's powerful stories characteristically feature weary, emasculated working-class men, often paired with resentful women and typifying those who remain defeated even during the Japanese economic miracle of the 1970s.

Featured artists

Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Miriam Katin
Abouet & Oubrerie

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We Are On Our Own
Abandon The Old In Tokyo
Aya




World Literature Today spolights D+Q authors

Updated March 16, 2007


WORLD LITERATURE TODAY
March- April 2007
Lynda Barry, Miriam Katin, Guy Delisle, Jason Lutes, Chester Brown
 
click here to download the PDF (1.44 MB)


Featured artists

Guy Delisle
Miriam Katin
Lynda Barry

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We Are On Our Own
Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China




  We Are On Our Own in World Literature Today

Updated March 7, 2007


WORLD LITERATURE IN REVIEW
We Are On Our Own: A Memoir
Jacobs, Rita D
574 words
1 March 2007
World Literature Today
66
Volume 81; Issue 2; ISSN: 01963570
English
Copyright (c) 2007 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All
rights reserved.

Miriam Katin. We Are On Our Own: A Memoir. Montréal. Drawn & Quarterly.
2006. 122 + 7 unnumbered pages, ill. Can$24.95/US$ 19.95. ISBN 1-896597-20-3

FOR MANY WHO were reared on flimsy, newsprint comic books as a means to
while away rainy Saturday afternoons, the appearance of Art Spiegelman's
Maus I a little over twenty years ago was a revelation. In the years since,
and especially recently, many sophisticated and literary graphic novels have
been published, and with We Are On Our Own, her first work, Miriam Katin has
entered the top tier of graphic novelists.

Subtitled A Memoir, Katin's stirring work deftly goes to the heart of one
family's HoIocaust experience, and yet along the way this becomes a
universal tale of parenthood, persecution, loss, and redemption. Set in
Budapest and the Hungarian countryside, the story begins in 1944 when the
Jewish population of Hungary was being denied simple rights, such as owning
a dog. As the tale of the fleeing mother and child unfolds, Katin's elegant
and nuanced gray drawings evoke both children's-book illustrations and
fineart drawings. She expertly establishes narrative through simple panels
and then swiftly moves it along or creates energy by breaking out of the
frame; in so doing, she indicates the precariousness of order in our lives.

The story of Lisa and her mother, Esther, who risks everything to save
herself and her child while her husband is at war, follows a path known Io
many familiar with Holocaust tales: escape, concealment, impoverishment,
violence, and, luckily, some few kindnesses along the way. Every such story
is the same yet singular, and Katin's characters are emphatically well
drawn, in both meanings of the word. As she raises a major issue for
survivors and their children-can faith in God survive such an ordeal?-she
also creates a poignant mother-daughter relationship in the face of almost
indescribable hardship and travail. And since such ordeals do not fade from
memory even with happy endings, Katin brings the reader into the vibrant
present by using color to illustrate the mostly serene adult circumstances
of Lisa with her own child.

The glory of the graphic novel lies with its ability to move quickly via
image and to provide irony and comment without language. Kann excels at
these juxtapositions. For example, at one point Esther and Lisa are racing
through the night in frigid, snowy weather, struggling to stay together and
to save their lives. This harrowing gray page is set adjacent to a blaze of
autumnal panels where the adult Lisa and her child are playing at hide and
seek. Lisa's past haunts every such moment.

We Are On Our Own provides great satisfaction both visually and emotionally,
as it beckons the reader back for another and then another look. What is
even more gratifying is that every reexamination provides new pleasures.

FOR MANY WHO were reared on flimsy, newsprint comic books as a means to
while away rainy Saturday afternoons, the appearance of Art Spiegelman's
Maus I a little over twenty years ago was a revelation. The glory of the
graphic novel lies with its ability to move quickly via image and to provide
irony and comment without language.

Copyright University of Oklahoma Mar/Apr 2007 | Rita D. Jacobs | Montclair
State University

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Miriam Katin

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We Are On Our Own




The Comics Journal reviews WE ARE ON OUR OWN

Updated October 31, 2006


We Are On Our Own
Miriam Katin
Drawn & Quarterly
140 pages, $19.95
ISBN: 1896597203

Reviewed by Dirk Deppey
Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Most of us here in the United States will never know real hardship. We are unlikely to find ourself under arbitrary orders to surrender ourselves to the government for transferral to a detention camp, unlikely to have to flee into the countryside for our lives while our neighbors assist in our persecution, unlikely to have to trade sex for security, unlikely to be left to the dubious mercy of invading soldiers. For Miriam Katin's mother, a Jew fleeing the Nazi horror and dodging Soviet wartime brutality, all of these things were a painful reality. We know this because Miriam has set her mother's story down on paper as a graphic novel.

We Are On Our Own is, so far as I know, Katin's first work of comics, but she spent her life as an illustrator and animator, and the skill she brings to bear in this work is formidable. Her art style reminds me very much of Posy Simmonds -- the illustrations are delicate and graceful, muddying slightly when more unpleasant scenes are depicted but still well-composed. Katin alternates between monochrome pencil drawings for the historical sections, occasionally switching to full color for the present day, as the now-grown artist experiences family life as a wife and mother, yet remains haunted by a past she was too young to fully comprehend. (In the afterword, Miriam reveals that she was unaware of most of the events she details until after she had grown up.)

As for the story itself: Perhaps the biggest horror it contains is that things could have been much worse. There was no shortage of people who meant Miriam and her mother ill, of course, and the compromises her mother made were choices no woman should ever have to face. Still, she was smart and resourceful enough to slip away when the Nazis ordered her to leave for the camps, and while the hardships that followed were often difficult to endure, she also met people along the way who helped her survive and keep moving, from the farming community that protected her to the Russian soldier who, not speaking her language, showed her a picture of his wife and children to reassure her that he had no intention of committing rape. That such simple acts of human decency could be considered lucky breaks is, in a strange way, more appalling than all the horrors catalogued by the Marquis de Sade; one finds oneself wondering what happened to all the people who didn't meet such good people along the wartime roads, let alone those who found themselves in the death camps.

Such incidents of nobility contrast sharply with the trials that Katin's mother endured as she fled the war and protected her young daughter from its worst abuses, but they also keep the book from sinking into hopelessness -- this is the tale of a survivor in the finest sense of the word. Miriam Katin's chronicle of her mother's success in dodging and, in her own way, defeating monsters like Hitler and his minions can only be seen as a loving tribute from a grateful daughter, written in gratitude to the courageous heroine who saved her life. Despite its more harrowing passages, We Are On Our Own is a hopeful and uplifting work, and the events it depicts ultimately give lie to the title. We aren't on our own, and that is our saving grace as human beings.
 
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  Miriam Katin reviewed by TIME MAGAZINE

Updated October 13, 2006


5 Gripping Graphic Novels for Grownups

Book-length comics with brains and heart. Oh, and all written by women

By ANDREW D. ARNOLD
Posted Sunday, Oct. 1, 2006

WE ARE ON OUR OWN
MIRIAM KATIN
This tale of a Jewish woman hiding with her daughter during the Nazi occupation of Hungary seems even more remarkable since it is the author's own history. Katin, who was only 2 years old during the ordeal, shifts back and forth between her mother's incredible odyssey and her own life later on, dealing with the legacy of that experience. Richly illustrated in pencil, this book should not be missed by anyone with an interest in history, love or faith--so anyone, really.
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Miriam Katin in Ha'aretz

Updated September 22, 2006


A mother, her daughter and the Holocaust
By Nirit Anderman

To this day, every time Miriam Katin and her mother Esther meet, they toast with a glass of whiskey, or another alcoholic beverage. But while this ceremony may seem no more than a nice habit, a pleasant custom the two have adopted, those who have read Katin's new book, "We Are On Our Own," are privy to this ritual's horrifying beginnings.

In the book, published last May, Katin describes the arduous journey she and her mother undertook during World War II. In 1944, when she was 2 years old, the Nazis invaded her hometown of Budapest. Her father was a soldier in the Hungarian army, and her mother, living with her daughter in the capital, realized that as Jews they would have to flee the city to survive.

So the mother obtained forged documents identifying them as a Hungarian peasant and her illegitimate daughter, burned all their pictures and documents, left the family estate behind, took her daughter and ran.

Katin depicts their arduous journey for survival in the Hungarian countryside in a graphic novel. In a phone interview from her New York home, she explains that her choice to tell the story through a comic book came naturally.

"I cannot write well enough in any language, but I can draw," she says, "and for this reason I figured that paintings accompanied by text would be the best way for me to tell this story."

The use of simple, minimal text serves this book well and depicts the horrors of the war through the eyes of her toddler self.

"When I started working on the book, I had to enter the little girl's mind, understand who she was, instill this character with life," recounts Katin. "My mother burned all the pictures and documents we had, but my father, who was fighting at the front at the time, still had some pictures of me as a baby and letters my mother wrote him. In these letters she wrote about me, telling him what I was doing, how I talked, what I liked. Reading the letters helped me imagine the girl I was, to understand what I was capable of understanding at that age, what I might have said."

Gray and gloom

Katin's gray and gloomy pencil drawings suit the wartime they depict. Budapest looks like a city under the shadow of impending doom, the village houses in which the mother and child hide look claustrophobic and depressing, and the snowstorm raging while they escape from one of the villages seems to threaten to wipe the figures from the page. Once in a while a page of grace infiltrates with bright colorful drawings, depicting another, normal reality decades later in New York. In these pages Katin plays with her firstborn son, wrapping him in warm clothes before he ventures out into the snow, and listens to her mother's painful memories.

The World War II memories interlaced with the survivors' lives in New York decades later is reminiscent of "Maus," Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning comic book, the first part of which was published 20 years ago, in August 1986. The critical acclaim received by "Maus" at the time, and the excitement over Spiegelman's ability to tell such a complex tale about a subject as delicate as the Holocaust through comics, have elevated the medium's status among literature and culture critics, and paved the road for the success of the graphic novels.

Katin says she credits "Maus," which she first read in 1991, with her decision to tell her war experience.

"Before then I had no interest in comics," she says. "But when I read Spiegelman's book, I discovered there was a way for me to tell all the stories I had carried in my head all these years. Only then did I start drawing my first comic, which described in four pages my return to Budapest after the war."

Since then Katin has published several other stories, all taking place during World War II, in comic-book form. Compared with Spiegelman's book, which focuses on the author's relationship with his father, and another highly esteemed comic book, "Yossel: April 14, 1943" by Joe Kubert, which depicts the Warsaw Ghetto uprising through the eyes of a boy, Katin's book stands out as a feminine story. Its heroes are women - Katin and her mother - and the most difficult passages depict gender-related traumas - gang rape, forced intercourse with a Nazi officer so he won't expose her identity, and an unwanted pregnancy.

"I did not give it thought while I was writing the book, but lately I have been getting more and more comments from people who think it is a feminine story, a comic created by a woman. There aren't many women comic book authors, and only recently, slowly, more and more have been popping up," says Katin. And indeed, more and more women have been breaking into the predominately male field of comics. The most celebrated breakthrough was two years ago, when Marjane Satrapi published her book "Persepolis," describing her childhood in Iran during the Islamic revolution. Following in her footsteps, more women have published graphic novels about their childhood memories, among them Katin, Alison Bechdel ("Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic") and Bernice Eisenstein (whose book "I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors" was published a month ago).

The only truth

The conversation with Katin is conducted in Hebrew. Her accent is noticeable and she sometimes has difficulty finding the right word, but her joy of the language is felt. When she was 15 she immigrated to Israel and lived here for six years. She studied graphic art at the Shamir Brothers' studio, served in the Israel Defense Forces as a graphic artist, and in 1981, after 18 years in New York, returned here with her husband and children.

"We came to Israel for a year but stayed for nine years," she says. Katin worked at the Ein Gedi Film company, a now-defunct animation studio, and her experience there later helped her obtain work designing backgrounds for MTV and Disney animations.

She had been contemplating writing a book for a long time, she says. "My mother is still alive, and some of the things she experienced in the war I did not know if she would allow me to tell," she says. "I knew that without these things there was no point of me telling the story. I held it back for many years, and two years ago I decided it was time. I started to work on the drawings, and at first I did not tell my mother about it. I waited to see first whether my publisher would approve my story. But as with every Jewish mother, my mother is very involved in my life, and pretty soon she started asking questions, showing interest in what I was doing. I felt she was worried. After my book was approved I sat next to her, poured her a glass of whiskey, and let her read what I had done so far. She wept while reading it, but finally faced me, hugged me and said I did a very beautiful thing."

Katin says she had to invent some of the details in the book.

"I could never ask my mother 'How did you feel? What was that like?' because I had to come to terms with it myself. What does it feel like when you have to burn all your family photos? When you have to run away from home? When you experience all of those things? Some of these things my mother told me over the years, but the really difficult things I heard from her for the first time only when I was 30, and I was shocked. To this day she occasionally tells me more things I did not know; more and more stories gush out of her all the time."

"We Are On Our Own" begins with the mother and child reading the Bible together. "In the beginning God created the dark, then the light, then mother and me and the others. And it was good," says toddler Katin. In the frame after she finishes these words, a red and black flag bearing a swastika appears in the window of the house.

"My father was an atheist, the environment I grew up in was communist, and I did not believe in God," says Katin. "When I came to Israel I had no problem - I lived a secular life and was content. But when I came to the United States, I faced a dilemma: My relatives and my husband's family were all religious or were members of a synagogue, and even my husband considered it important that we raise our children according to Judaism. I was in a continuous struggle between the surrounding pressure and my inner truth, and when I sat to write the book, it became a probing journey, an examination of this conflict."

And so, in one of the scenes in the book, Katin and her mother are in a village, in the home of a Hungarian family that owns a vineyard. When fighter planes start bombing the area, the toddler breaks into bitter crying, and the landlord pours wine from a cask into a glass and offers it to the mother. "God's only truth is inside these barrels," he tells her, "Give some to the child." The mother hugs her daughter, and lets her drink from the wine. "God is red, God is in the glass," she whispers in her ear. "God is soo sweet. God lives inside the big barreeellss."
 
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  WE ARE ON OUR OWN reviewed in Jewish Woman Magazine

Updated August 30, 2006


FALL ISSUE 2006

A Graphic Debut

Miriam Katin, 63, a former animator for Disney and MTV, is among the new voices coming to the fore in the mushrooming—and at one time heavily male—realm of graphic novels. Katin’s powerful first novel is We Are on Our Own (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95), a captivating memoir of her childhood story of survival in Hungary during World War II.

With her father off fighting in the Hungarian army and the German troops cranking up deportations of Budapest’s Jewish population, Katin and her mother assume the identities of a Russian servant and her illegitimate child and flee to the countryside. In full-color sequences, Katin poignantly captures the trauma and disorientation she experiences as she and her mother struggle to stay alive in a harrowing world of fear, betrayal and abuse. She conveys her ensuing struggle as an adult to come to terms with the long-term effects of her experiences and her loss of faith in God. This extraordinary book received starred reviews from both Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist.

More on Miriam Katin

Miriam Katin, author of the poignant memoir, We Are on Our Own, was born in Hungary during World War II. The family returned to Budapest after the war, but left again during the 1956 Hungarian uprising. Katin emigrated to Israel in 1957 and worked as a graphic artist during a stint in the Israel Defense Forces. She and her husband moved to New York in the 1960s where they had two sons. Katin later became an animator for Disney and MTV and has illustrated children's books. To see more of Katin's work, go to http://home.nyc.rr.com/miriamkatin/.
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Miriam Katin's WE ARE ON OUR OWN reviewed in the Boston Globe

Updated August 17, 2006


MARGINS TO MAINSTREAM ; RECENT NOVELS BRING THE OUTSIDER EXPERIENCE IN

13 August 2006
The Boston Globe, D6

You'll want to absorb... Miriam Katin's "We Are on Our Own" (Drawn & Quarterly, 122 pp., $19.95)

Katin's "We Are on Our Own" is a skillfully rendered memoir about Katin and her mother's harrowing escape from Budapest in 1944. Its world is gray, its characters complex; even the Nazi commandant who inveigles Katin's mother into an unwilling relationship has a human side. The narrative moves quickly; the lie her mother's friend spreads to throw the Nazis off track is telescoped in a page that is the last graphic word on gossip. I couldn't figure out what kind of soldier Katin's father was or which front he was fighting on. Otherwise, this narrative, rendered in soft, nuanced pencil, rings modest and true.


Carlo Wolff regularly reviews graphic novels for the Globe.
 

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  The Hartford Advocate on DUPUY & BERBERIAN

Updated July 18, 2006


Hartford Advocate - Hartford, CT, USA

Comics Cavalcade
An embarrassment of riches
by Alan Bisbort - July 6, 2006

Get A Life
by Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian, $19.95 (Drawn & Quarterly)

Maybe Later
by Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian, $19.95 (Drawn & Quarterly)


The present state of the graphic novel/comic-book genre is reminiscent of the music scene of the late 1960s. Back then, anybody with long hair who could play an instrument was signed to a record label. Out of that improvisational chaos came some of the most timeless music of the era, much of it selling better in reissued formats today than work by contemporary artists. Of course, some of the worst, most self-indulgent crap was also released, but it was so far outweighed by the good that nobody even remembers it. Likewise, the graphic novel genre is exploding with new voices and visions, still stretching its muscles, still widening its tent to give anybody with a pencil and a unique spin a chance to create something worthwhile.

And, remarkably enough, the resultant creative explosion has produced a great deal of potentially timeless work but very little crap (with the exception of the entire manga subgenre). For example, just in the past few months, we've seen a gripping Holocaust story (Miriam Katin's memoir We Are On Our Own), dispatches from Iraq (War Fix), a modern Little Prince-like fable (Goodbye, Chunky Rice), as well as Attitude 3, the third collection of "new subversive online cartoonists."

Lost in the shuffle, though, are some works that may go begging for the audience they deserve.

...Heartwarming and hilarious, the continuing saga of Mr. Jean -- one of the most popular comic book series in France -- has been translated into English and handsomely packaged in two volumes by Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly. Dupuy and Berberian's long-running collaboration is unusual in that they both write and draw and the result is organic and seamless. Indeed, it's both an intellectual and visceral pleasure to read Get A Life and Maybe Later. Mr. Jean is a struggling 30-something writer who cut his teeth listening to Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, whose tales of love, loss and battles with his best friend's cat and his "beloved concierge" (a mean old crone with facial hair) are unpredictable, visually inventive and hilarious. Think Seinfeld episodes without the conniving edge. This is the sort of smart comic that has the chance to hook first-time adult readers. Try one of these. I guarantee you'll want more.
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WE ARE ON OUR OWN in the National Post

Updated July 10, 2006


A child in Budapest: Miriam Katin has published her first graphic novel at the age of 63, and the memoir of her life in Second World War Hungary was worth the wait

Jeet Heer, National Post
Published: Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Little kids have a dog's eye view of the world. From the standpoint of a two-year-old or a beagle, adults might as well be walking skyscrapers, their heads off in the clouds and their lives caught up in unfathomable concerns. Living closer to the ground, kids and dogs are quick to sniff each other out, forming friendships based on the fact that they both have to contend with the arbitrary and unpredictable whims of the big people.

Part of the considerable achievement of Miriam Katin's comic-book memoir We are on Our Own is that it evokes, with unsentimental exactness, a child's view of the world so that we can understand why the book's heroine first gets a glimmer of the horrors of war by the loss of her dog.

The book is based on the experience of Katin and her mother in Hungary during the last two years of the Second World War. A few of the names in the book have been changed to protect the sensibilities of those who experienced the events, but the fundamental narrative is based on the memories of the cartoonist, those of her mother and surviving family documents.

The story is simple enough: Living in Budapest in 1944, a young mother and her two-year-old daughter have to flee into the country-side when the collaborationist Hungarian regime starts to round up the Jews. Living under a false identity, mother and daughter fend for themselves amid the patchwork war fought out by the German occupiers and the ambiguous liberation forces of the Red Army.

What gives We are on Our Own its special edge, its genuine ability to bite and claw into the reader's soul, is the way Katin uses the conventions of cartooning to tell her tale so that it has many layers of meaning. In a prose narrative, it is usually possible to unfold one narrative thread at a time, each word following another like a marching soldier. In a picture, several things can happen simultaneously: Da Vinci's Last Supper, for example, features several subplots among the disciples to complement the central figure of Jesus.

In We are on Our Own, each picture usually has several events happening at once. One main narrative line is the story of Eve, the cosmopolitan mother who has to use her feminine wiles to pass as a peasant while being subject to the sexual advances of horny soldiers. In the same set of pictures, usually lower in the frame, daughter Lisa is experiencing the war from her own pint-sized perspective: befriending dogs and other animals while taking candy from the uniformed men who are so nice to her mom. Finally, sequences set in the post-war period show Lisa thinking about these wartime experiences. This provides yet another re-framing of the story: Remembering the war as an adult, Lisa sees the seeds of her own hard-bitten philosophy, her steely rejection of the false consolation of faith.

At age 63, Katin is a newcomer to the field of the graphic novel, but she brings with her a wealth of experience as a cartoonist and illustrator. Her family left Hungary after the 1956 uprising, immigrating first to Israel then the United States. Katin has worked as an animator in both countries, with a resume that lists MTV and Disney as former employers. Her style, like her narrative, is a careful mixture of approaches: At times it has the elegance of an old-fashioned storybook, but then it jars with the starkness of a war photo. This stylistic variety serves the larger artistic plan of the book, showing the clash between childhood innocence and the brutality of the adult world.

- Miriam Katin will be speaking at the International Readings series in Toronto tonight. www.readings.org, 416-973-4000
© National Post 2006
 
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  WE ARE ON OUR OWN reviewed in Geist

Updated July 10, 2006


We Are On Our Own
by Miriam Katin
published by Drawn & Quarterly
reviewed by Sarah Leavitt

Miriam Katin was a small child when she and her mother escaped Nazi-occupied Budapest by faking their deaths and walking into the Hungarian countryside. At sixty-three, Katin has finally told her story, in straightforward, unsentimental prose and lovely, seemingly effortless drawings. We Are On Our Own (Drawn & Quarterly) opens with a page on which the words "In the beginning, darkness was on the face of the deep" sit surrounded by a scribbled black background. Over the next few pages, young Miriam (called Lisa in the story) and her mother Esther study the Bible while a huge flag with a swastika on it blows across their window. Then, from an eerily mundane scene of Esther and Lisa at a café, the tale spirals into terror as Esther first hands their dog over to the Nazis-Jews are not allowed to have dogs-and then burns their belongings and takes Lisa into hiding. Katin tells her story with sparse, well-chosen words- minimal narration and dialogue that highlights key incidents-instead of trying to explain every detail of what happened to her. She draws with casual grace, creating figures that are cartoonish and even funny sometimes: the neighbours gossip about Esther with sketchy faces-wide eyes, turned-up noses, two lines of dark lipstick-that hark back to 1940s and '50s New Yorker cartoons. Yet Katin's loose, expressive style also brings immediacy to harrowing scenes in which soldiers rape women and shoot dogs, and to the final frames, in which Lisa sits under a table remembering, and stabbing her doll with a fork. This image ends the story on a powerful, haunting note, but it is followed by a five-page afterword consisting of explanations and details of Katin's life since she and her mother escaped. As well, the jacket copy on the advance reading edition promises (three times in 245 words) that the story will trace Katin's "lifelong struggle with faith." It doesn't-it tells what happened to Katin and her family over several months between 1944 and 1945, and the writing and drawing are weaker when the author seems to be trying to live up to the promo material. Is it my imagination or do publishers seem reluctant lately to let stories-fiction or non-stand on their own without explanation? In spite of such interference, readers will appreciate We Are On Our Own for what it is-one woman's clear and potent recollection of childhood horror-and we can imagine for ourselves what might have happened to Katin's belief in God after witnessing unspeakable violence and death.
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4 D+Q reviews in the KIRKUS SPECIAL GRAPHIC SPOTLIGHT

Updated June 26, 2006


D+Q has 4 reviews in the KIRKUS REVIEWS SPECIAL GRAPHIC SPOTLIGHT

Skibber Bee-Bye
Ron Regé, Jr.
Drawn & Quarterly / July / 1896597963

Skibber Bee~Bye, first issued in 2000 but out of print for three years, is a perfect illustration of the work that made Chris Ware call Ron Regé “one of a handful of cartoonists in the history of the medium to not only reinvent comics to suit his own idiosyncratic impulses and inspirations as an artist, but also to imbue it with his own peculiar, ever changing emotional energy. “With direct, clean illustration that belies the sometimes dark content, Skibber’s a dreamscape in which a shy and lovesick elephant furtively pursues the company of two reclusive mice. With strange, one-eyed fairy-like creatures and treehouse fortresses, magical elements wander through the narrative—primarily visual, with little text—but as it progresses, the innocence of the two mice is degraded by their contact with the real world. “Skibber first existed as a series of unrelated stories I had written,” says Regé. “They all had similar ‘dreamy’ themes and elements in them. I changed the stories around so that I could thread them together into the narrative.” Though Skibber deals with death, violence and self-immolation, the whimsical, almost-childlike quality of the art made the author an apparently perfect fit for Tylenol’s “Ouch!” advertising campaign, launched in 2003. The campaign was an attempt to rebrand and attract younger consumers, in pursuit of whom Tylenol had begun to sponsor extreme-sports competitions and film festivals. They also sought out the best young graphic-novelists, and quickly found Regé. A representative for the campaign met him while buying one of his larger scale images. “The print was fairly violent,” says Regé. “But [it] reflected on the nature of pain and suffering.”

Abandon the Old in Tokyo
Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Edited by Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly / September / 1894937872

In 2005, Drawn & Quarterly published The Push Man and Other Stories, a collection of short graphic narratives by a relatively unknown Japanese comics creator that reflected the mundane and perverse nature of everyday life in 1960s Tokyo. In 2006, that artist, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, has become a household name in alternative and literary comics. This year, he will grace the pages of the Paris Review and Giant Robot magazine, and will have the second volume of his work published. In Abandon the Old in Tokyo, Tatsumi’s stories are longer and even more unsettling. A few of the narratives, including the title story and Forked Road, end abruptly and evoke the haunting feeling of tragedy. “Tatsumi seems to push himself further in several disparate directions,” says editor Adrian Tomine. “Some stories are more explicitly humorous, some are more explicitly ‘horror’ based, and overall, there’s an increased level of irreverence and daring.” Readers may also be surprised to find elements of manga enmeshed in Tatsumi’s noir sensibility. The book includes an introduction by Koji Suzuki, author of the Japanese horror novel The Ring, who writes, “That the subjects of nostalgia may be ridden with mischief, crime and passion, as they are in these stories, does not make the subjects any less nostalgic.” This fall, readers will have the chance to feel the nostalgia of Tatsumi’s world once again.

My Most Secret Desire
Julie Doucet
Drawn & Quarterly / June / 1896597955

A pioneering female comics artist,Julie Doucet became famous in the late ’80s and early ’90s for her unapologetic portrayals of female sexuality and desire and her explosive,chaotic drawing style. In works like Dirty Plotte (“plotte” is French slang for a part of the female anatomy), and Lift Your Leg, My Fish Is Dead, Doucet blew the sometimes clannish world of male graphic-artists wide open, using material from her own life to examine the female psyche. In My Most Secret Desire, Doucet once again explores her own unconscious for material. It is an unconnected series of hectic dreams Doucet has experienced, in which she turns into a man, gives birth to struggling kittens, goes bra-shopping during the Apocalypse and launched into deep space with only her mother’s cookies to keep her company. “I am not the type of artist who can self-analyze herself,” says Doucet. “I don’t feel I exposed myself too much. There are things I would absolutely never talk about. And I won’t tell you what they are!” This version of My Most Secret Desire is in fact a reworked reissue of a dream journal that was published in 1995, and is being heralded by fans as a triumphant return after a five-year hiatus from comics. “Actually, it is not a break. I quit,” notes Doucet, who’s spent the intervening years working on woodcuts, sculptures and writing. “After 12 years of comics, nothing but comics...The thing is that to be able to live off my comics I had to work quite a lot, so I didn’t have any energy to do anything else, art-wise, not even having a sketchbook. [And] I got very tired of the all-boys crowd.”


We Are On Our Own
Miriam Katin
Drawn & Quarterly / May / 1896597203

The shadow of the Nazi regime darkens the world of Miriam Katin’s elegantly illustrated, captivatingly told memoir. At 63, MTV and Disney animator Katin is a bit older than most graphic-novelists, but she shows an assured maturity in her detailed art and evocative lettering, as she follows the narrator, her younger self. Young Lisa, as she is called in the book, grows up during the Nazi invasion of Budapest. With her father away fighting for the Hungarian army, she and her mother fake their deaths and flee to the countryside, where they disguise themselves as Russian servant with illegitimate child. Even at that young age, Lisa questions how God could allow such horrors. Her iron-willed mother’s determination that her father would find them is as stunning a tribute to love as we have ever seen. “Only when I was about 30 did she tell me all the most difficult parts of the journey,” says the author. “But even then, I was unable to ask her to elaborate. I choked up and just listened. In my head, I was narrating these stories throughout my life, but I am not a writer. Somehow the comic form of telling a story allowed me to express myself.” With rare but powerful full-color scenes depicting how her childhood has affected her life in America, this stunning book is that rare achievement that reveals the potential of the graphic-novel form to be so personal yet universal, despairing and yet ultimately life-affirming.

 

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  RABBLE on WE ARE ON OUR OWN and THE PUSH MAN

Updated June 22, 2006


Progressive books left at your door.

Six fat comics
Graphic, and novel, but not necessarily graphic novels — draw your own conclusions

Even while the big publishing houses get into the “graphic novel” biz in a big way, there are a number of excellent quality comic book publishing houses that have established themselves with consistently high-quality work. Most of these are in France. But one of the world’s finest is Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly. It seems that a staple of contemporary comic-book publishing is the collected works of a long-lost and/or largely ignored master. Much of this type of publishing is a necessary insurgent act of historical recovery that is revising the history of the medium in the interests of promoting comics as an art form that can stand on its own.

One recent important contribution to this is The Push Man and Other Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn & Quarterly, 2005; $25.95) a Japanese artist who has been quietly working at his craft for over 40 years. The pervasive and abundant manga (Japanese comics) tends to eclipse all other forms of comic-book art practiced in Japan. Tatsumi is a hidden treasure. His art is simple sketches; it looks and feels quickly drawn; the settings are dense, urban and industrial. The stories are almost exclusively grim, filled with alienation and despair, stories of working-class people struggling to cope. Tatsumi’s work is a sobering antidote to the hyper-commercialized, mass-produced manga. Curiously, the protagonist in each of the sixteen stories is male which forces one to wonder where the stories of female protagonists are to be found. Hopefully, these are being produced or are being sought out for better attention.

D&Q’s newest title is Miriam Katin’s girlhood memoir We Are On Our Own (Drawn & Quarterly, 2005; $24.95). It is the story of her and her mother’s escape from Nazi-occupied Budapest and their survival on-the-run through rural and war-torn Hungary. It is a characteristically harrowing tale but one that relates the courage and sacrifice of Katin’s mother in keeping them alive. Though their trials were punctuated with occasional kindness, it is a story of war and despair, one that we see, through some flash-forward scenes of Katin as a mother herself, has left her with a lingering scepticism about her religious beliefs. Katin has a soft and expressionistic style of illustration similar to British artist Raymond Briggs that works convincingly to convey this story as a child’s memories. It gives the book a feel of being a children’s story book though a child reading this book is likely to need support in understanding the complexities of this tale.

—chris cavanagh

chris cavanagh is an educator, storyteller, writer, artist and frequent rabble reviewer.
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WE ARE ON OUR OWN reviewed in the GEORGIA STRAIGHT

Updated June 22, 2006


Books

Graphic novelists sketch complex terrain
By john burns
Publish Date: June 8, 2006

Thank God, graphic novels have finally reached some level of mainstream acceptance. Hell, even the Globe and Mail is starting review roundups of them this summer. For fans of the form, this means we don’t have to explain that no, we’re not reading comic books. (Well, we are, but you know what I mean…) That not every book has to be compared to Peanuts. And with interest from Hollywood—everything from American Splendor to the still-showing Art School Confidential—names like Art Spiegelman, Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, and Seth have gained a measure of recognition. It’s such a relief. If the trend continues, one day they could become as popular and profitable as poetry!

Given the enormous amount of effort required to compose, draft, and complete a full-length graphic novel, it’s no wonder obsession is such an enduring theme.

We Are on Our Own
By Miriam Katin. Drawn & Quarterly, 129 pp, $24.95, hardcover.

Saving best for last, We Are on Our Own is a memoir of how author Miriam Katin’s mother survived the last year of WWII. A Hungarian Jew, Esther saved herself and her daughter by fleeing Budapest and the Nazis. Disguised as a bumpkin servant with her illegitimate child, Esther collides here with Russian forces, German officers, violence, and rape; her qualified triumph (loss of lives, of faith, of innocence) is incredibly moving. Throughout, Katin condenses so much emotional and visual material into her frames that reading their plight is a breathless experience. Swinging between social satire and dispassionate documentary, We Are on Our Own is wholly persuasive, using humour, irony, and a range of drawing styles. It’s not unusual for Katin to focus a panel on a seemingly irrelevant detail—a shoe, a window, a breast—as though little Miriam is already editing their remarkable journey with her child’s eye. This is an extraordinary presentation of survival, and the furious fight to attain it.
 
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  TIME.COM reviews WE ARE ON OUR OWN by Miriam Katin

Updated June 16, 2006


Web Exclusive | Andrew Arnold
No Need for Sensationalism
TIME.comix reviews a pair of childhood memoirs
Posted Thursday, Jun. 01, 2006

While the reputation of traditional memoir publishing recovers from the scandal of partly or wholly fabricated tales of self-inflicted horror, two new graphical memoirs put such phony sensationalism to shame. Notably, both are by women, whose childhood stories have become increasingly visible in this medium thanks to the popularity of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, a two-volume remembrance of growing up in post-revolution Iran. We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin recalls the author's early childhood living secretly as a Jew in Nazi-occupied Hungary. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel takes place in suburban Pennsylvania, where the author's father led a secret double life. Though wildly divergent in setting, tone and approach, both books share a compelling interest in the consequences of a stressful childhood.



Miriam Katin's We Are On Our Own (Drawn & Quarterly; 128 pages; $20) can be read in less than hour, thanks to its page-turning true tale of life and death during the Nazi occupation of Hungary. Still, the return on such a short investment of time is an unforgettable tale of a mother's courage in the face of nightmarish cruelty. Along the way, it explores the precarious nature of religious faith, which for some can be stretched too thin for suspension.

We Are On Our Own recalls Katin's mother, Esther Levy, who takes care of two-year-old Miriam alone in Nazi-occupied Budapest while her husband fights in the Hungarian army. The book opens with the urbane and middle class Esther sharing coffee with her best friend, discussing how the Nazi death trap was closing in. "I received an order to hand over the dog today," she says, as Miriam feeds ice cream to little Rexy. First denied their pets, the Jews of Budapest are soon commanded to leave behind all their possessions and report to the ghetto. Hearing rumors of round-ups from which no one returns, Esther buys fake papers that identify her as a village servant girl with an illegitimate daughter. She plans to flee the city, burning every personal identifier before she does. This includes, notably, the family Bible.

A Nazi Kommandante sets his eyes on the author's mother, in Miriam Katin's 'We Are On Our Own'


Once outside of the city, Esther stays out of the way by living on a farm. Trouble comes when the local Nazi Kommandant spies her. Suspecting she is a Jew, instead of turning her in, he forces her to become his mistress. Soon this horror gives way to another as the Nazis retreat from the advancing Russian troops. The Russian's vodka-fueled barbarism sends Esther fleeing into a snowstorm, pulling Miriam behind in an open suitcase. This intense sequence becomes the book's dramatic and thematic climax. While some may see the hand of a benevolent God in sending the snows and a shelter to protect them, for Miriam the site of a dog shot by the soldiers brings her to a different conclusion.

Between these scenes of grey-toned horror we witness flashes of Miriam's life, decades later, fleshed out in full color. Her son has reached the age of being entered into Hebrew school and Katin struggles with whether to send him, "to be with our own kind," as her husband says. "You mean to separate. Again," she replies. These flash-forwards reveal the lasting effect on Miriam, who barely remembers any of the events depicted in the book. For her, leading a purely secular life is the only answer to the atrocities she and her mother experienced. It's a bold theme in an American culture more used to books with theological bromides (see the Chicken Soup series) than existentialism.

You wouldn't guess that We Are On Our Own is Katin's first graphic novel. Having illustrated children's books and worked in animation, Katin has had a lifetime of practicing her visual narrative skills. Working mostly in graphite pencil, the monotone palate evokes the grey days of Nazi rule in a past desaturated of color. Instead, Katin uses shading to create detail and rich texture. She keeps the layout simple, with rarely more than six panels per page. When the action heats up, characters will burst out of their borders, making the page more dynamic.

Thankfully, in the second half of the book, Katin reminds us of life's kindnesses as the other side to life's cruelty. Still alive at the end of the war, her father returns to Budapest in search of his family, only to find them long gone. He begins his own parallel journey as Esther and Miriam take up residence with a family friend, the lonely scion of a local industrialist, whose family are all dead. A French governess provides a comic and blissfully domestic antidote to the earlier scenes of outrageous hardship. As the story winds up, it concludes with a bittersweet scene of love lost and found. Even as fiction it would be one of the best stories I've read in the last year, but as a memoir it leaves you speechless. Miriam Katin's We Are On Our Own should not be missed by anyone with an interest history, the nature of love and faith or anything human in between.
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MIRIAM KATIN in the Toronto Star

Updated June 8, 2006


CHILD'S TALE TOOK A WHILE
GRAPHIC MEMOIR
At 63, debut author packs real punch
May 28, 2006
HO CHE ANDERSON

We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin

Drawn & Quarterly, 122 pages, $24.95

Miriam Katin didn't become a cartoonist until she was 63. With her debut graphic memoir We Are On Our Own, she takes to the form like she's been doing it all her life.

The New Yorker's background as a designer for Disney and MTV, and as a graphic artist for the Israel Defence Forces, has to help. But Katin has also been crafting the book since she was a child, and it shows.

We Are On Our Own is the story of young Miriam, born in Budapest, and her mother, Esther, who are together forced to flee first the Nazis and then the Red Army. They are Jewish in a place where that means life or death. Mother and child are forced to cross vast terrains on foot, relying alternately on the kindness of strangers and Esther's strength and guile for their survival.

The illustrations, gorgeous throughout, lend the story a picture book vibe that is uncompromising in its portrayal of war's casual madness. There's a wistful quality to the pictures that evokes the fuzziness of childhood, yet Katin's backgrounds are filled with barren snowswept landscapes, routine anti-Semitism and destruction.

War is of course central to the narrative, yet it is handled in a way that is almost incidental. What drives the book is a powerful story of simple survival, because survival is the only choice.

Elegant though Katin's book is, there are some quibbles. For reasons that escape me, she names her child doppelganger Lisa — which spurs doubts about the book's accuracy that otherwise would not emerge.

Occasionally she breaks from the central tale to a separate, parallel narrative of the grown Lisa and her own daughter, set in New York City in the late '60s. These sequences are beautifully illustrated in full colour, a departure from the delicate pencil drawings that comprise the bulk of the book, but they can seem to emerge from left field, disrupting the main story.

But this is nitpicking. I'm looking forward to seeing what Katin comes at us with next.

Toronto's Ho Che Anderson is the author of Martin Luther King, King: A Comic Book Biographyy (Fantagraphics Books).
 
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  WE ARE ON OUR OWN in Hippo Press!

Updated May 12, 2006


We Are On Our Own, by Miriam Katin (Drawn & Quarterly, 2006)

What forces create an atheist and the firm belief that there is no higher power keeping his eye on things? In Miriam Katin’s case, it was the Nazis’ invasion of Budapest. Katin and her mother, a Jew, escaped on foot, posing as a Russian servant with an illegitimate child. Katin’s father, meanwhile, was at the front fighting for the Hungarian army.

Katin wrote her story as a graphic novel — pictures and word balloons illustrating a fearful flight, a search for refuge and the erosion of a child’s simple faith. Where is god and, if he exists, why did he allow the Nazis to come and the strange men to hurt her mother and make her cry?

Katin is 63 now and We Are On Our Own is her first novel. After the war, her family returned to Hungary but was forced to flee again during the 1956 uprising. The clan settled in Israel where Katin served in the armed forces as a graphic artist. She moved to New York City in the 1960s and worked as an animator for Disney and MTV. She’s also illustrated children’s books and drawn several short stories in comics form.

Her drawings are beautiful — rich in content and stark with contrast — a combination of her interpretations of her mother’s stories and her own dim childhood memories. The story itself is haunting, superbly told in words and images. Katin’s mother is a hero, protecting her child at all costs, even if it literally means sleeping with the enemy.

The Holocaust changed the world, Katin says, and the scars of the survivors are as deep as any wound ever inflicted. Even those who avoided the death camps, sometimes selling themselves to do so, will always live there in some way.

In exploring her own questions about faith, Katin seems to be saying that the greatest casualty of the war was innocence and trust. A

— Robert Greene
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Katin interviewed in PW Comics Week

Updated May 12, 2006


Escaping the Holocaust
This story originally appeared in PW Comics Week on May 2, 2006 Sign up now!

by Chris Barsanti, PW Comics Week -- 5/2/2006
Article


Miriam Katin was just two years old in 1944 when her mother faked their deaths and they fled their home in Budapest ahead of the Nazi invasion. Her harrowing new graphic memoir, We Are On Our Own from Drawn & Quarterly, is a dark and carefully reconstructed tale of the lengths to which Katin's mother (her father was off fighting in the Hungarian army) went to keep them alive amidst overlapping dangers from the Nazis, suspicious Hungarians and rampaging Soviets. Over the course of the book, their Jewish faith is shaken by the horrific events unfolding around them—in her afterword, Katin talks about the atheism she later absorbed from her father and how it affected her own parenting. "My only regret is that I could not give this kind of comfort, a comfort of faith in the 'existence of God,' to my children. I was unable to lie."

After the 1956 Hungarian uprising, Katin and her family emigrated to Israel, where she apprenticed in a Tel Aviv graphic arts studio and then served as a graphic artist in the Israeli army from 1960 to 1963. After living in New York for some years with her husband and two sons, Katin and her family returned to Israel, to a kibbutz, in 1981. In the early 1980s, Katin joined an Israeli film animation company, and eventually returned to New York, where she worked on background designs for Nickelodeon, MTV and Disney. She has also illustrated several children's books.

Today, Katin and her family still live in New York, as does her mother, who was apprehensive about the writing of We Are On Our Own, telling her daughter, "You never know. Someone might see it, take offense and come after us." Katin talked with PW Comics Week about her new book.

PWCW: Do you remember much of anything before 1944 or does your memory mostly begin when the Nazis invaded Budapest?

Miriam Katin: I remember a number of things from that year, mainly connected to food, a white dog and the bombings.

PWCW: How aware were you of what was happening around you during the war?

M.K.: I was too young to grasp what was happening. From my mother's letters I learned that I knew my father was away but I did not know him [at the time]. He had seen me only once after I was born. I knew only a few things until age 30, when my mother told me much of what we went through. I was grateful for her waiting that long. It was not shock but just sadness and sorrow. Naturally though, throughout childhood I wondered about the missing family. I had to make do with hazy, scant explanations.

PWCW: Given how little you were told, do you find yourself doing the same thing with your children?

M.K.: Even if I tried, I could not have shielded them, because in our Hebrew schools they inundated the kids with many horrific facts and images at an early age. I was angered and I protested. At one point it turned out that the teacher did not even bother to screen the documentary she showed to seven-year-olds. I raised hell. In the 1970s this [the U.S.] country went into a Holocaust craze.

PWCW: Was it difficult to go from working on children's books and films to creating such a resolutely adult piece of work—even one that seems to take a child's point of view?

M.K.: The things I created comics from, the short ones as well as the book, have been in my mind all the time as a running narrative, nonstop, wanting to be written out. When I found my way of telling them I had no difficulty. At least not physically. Emotionally, yes.

PWCW: Visually, the book looks like it was drawn in part from children's literature. Was it hard to find the right style?

M.K.: No, in 2000, when I decided to complete the first four-page story [for 2003's Monkeysuit Anthology], which I had sketched up 10 years before that, it just happened. When I draw these things, I think of a gray, dirty place, the darkness of some of those wartime photographs. Those years exist for me only in black and white.

PWCW: We Are On Our Own seems in large part to be about the inability to believe in God after living through experiences like this. Quite a jump from working for MTV and Disney.

M.K.: Well, see what came first, yes? My mother did make some efforts to introduce me to prayer and religion. It is not that I lost belief after living through experiences like those. It was accepting one or another idea naturally. It was up to me. My Christian friends went to church, and in spite of Communist indoctrination they still believed. My father was a decisive influence. The struggle is then not with myself but with the world around me.

PWCW: How long had you been planning this project and what finally brought you to it? How did Drawn & Quarterly get involved?

M.K.: After D&Q published my 12-page story in Drawn and Quarterly, Vol.4 in 2001, they asked me if I had anything else. I did a short work using some of the events from 1944-45 but [D&Q publisher] Chris Oliveros thought it should be a book. Of course, I still had the fear of doing this story and started working on it in secret.

PWCW: Has your mother seen the completed book? Is she still apprehensive about it?

M.K.: I finally showed my mother the approved rough. I kept telling her, please regard this as "based on" our story. She was very touched and approved it, but all along bid me to keep our real names out of it. Thus, I included the letters and postcards but arranged them so no name or address is visible.

PWCW: Do you feel any sense of peace now that the book has been completed?

M.K.: Peace? Definitely not. But gratefully, something did happen, because before completing the book, when talking about a number of events, I would not be able to finish certain sentences without choking up. Now I can.

PWCW: What has the feedback been like so far?

M.K.: The feedback is unbelievable. I did not think there would be still such interest in this sort of a story. I did it for myself and for a hopefully young comics reader audience. One critic, after my Eisner nomination [for short story form in 2001], mentioned that all the movies and documentaries connected to the Holocaust are always automatically nominated for awards, no matter how inept. This worried me somewhat, but I still had to do it.

PWCW: Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to tell us about? Have you considered another memoir in this form?

M.K.: I am working on the next project but I try not to have it like the next thing about me. But who knows—maybe everything we do is about ourselves?
 
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  Miriam Katin in the MONTREAL GAZETTE!

Updated May 9, 2006



Weekend: Books
A daughter tries to understand
ELAINE KALMAN NAVES
Freelance
900 words
6 May 2006
Montreal Gazette
Final
J6
English
Copyright © 2006 Montreal Gazette
Nearly 30 years ago, in 1979, U.S. journalist Helen Epstein published Children of the Holocaust, a seminal book that examined the impact of the Shoah not on survivors of the unthinkable, but on their children. Epstein's classic - part autobiography, part collection of interviews - validated the Holocaust memoir as a genre and opened the door for other second-generation authors like Eva Hoffman, Art Spiegelman, Julie Salamon and Susan Varga.

In my home library, three rows of shelves are chock-a-block with personal non-fiction titles about the Holocaust. Between George Steiner's musings that silence is the only appropriate response to the Shoah ("The world of Auschwitz lies outside speech as it lies outside reason," he wrote in Language and Silence) and Elie Wiesel's dictum "Even if I wrote on nothing else, it would never be enough," I choose Wiesel.

Yet reading about this awful phenomenon oppresses, pains and unsettles me. On the other hand, admitting to such failings triggers stabs of guilt and remorse. After what millions (including my parents and family) endured and suffered, how do I have the gall to complain that reading is burdensome?

It's in part because of my ambivalence that I savoured Bernice Eisenstein's beautifully conceived and executed illustrated memoir, I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors, with such wonder and, yes, pleasure. Every page elicited nods of recognition. For instance, this passage: "Is it funny enough, is it sad enough? Am I too whiny, too angry, too petulant? Boo hoo, poor little survivors' child. Have I managed to avoid using every cliche there is out there relating to the Holocaust? You see, I have this problem - growing up in the household of my parents was not tragic, but their past was. My life was not cursed, theirs was. They were born under an unfavourable star and forced to sew it onto their clothing. Yet here I am, some Jewish Sisyphus, pushing history and memory uphill, ... and what I really feel like is a rebellious child, wanting to stand before my parents and say, Here, take it - it's yours, I don't want it."

Born in 1949 in Toronto, to parents from Poland who had experienced ghettoization, deportation, enslavement and the death camps (they met in Auschwitz), Eisenstein knew she wanted to be an artist from the age of 6. A career freelancer, she has worked as a graphic artist and editor for many years, but this is her first book. She began it five years ago with sketches and portraits of her father, who had died almost a decade earlier. The artwork pulled skeins of memory in its wake, and the memories inspired words. The final product is an extended meditation on her own life and that of her family, on the powerful generational hold of the Shoah and on the imperative of remembrance. The magical interplay between the haunting illustrations - the often-skewed faces reflecting disordered lives - and the by times poetic, philosophical and outrageously funny prose results in an original and deeply moving work that, though it covers familiar ground, feels both fresh and timeless.

One of its most poignant features is the commemoration in words and pictures of Eisenstein's parents' survivor friends. I found myself perusing the drawings of these emblematically Jewish faces with wistful affection, as if they were people I knew.

Miriam Katin's graphic novel We Are on Our Own resonated for me in other ways, by evoking landmarks of my own Budapest childhood. Barely older than a toddler during the German occupation of Hungary in 1944-45, Katin was saved by her brave mother, whom she calls Esther in the book. Esther defied orders to move into a so-called Jewish house in the capital. Instead, she assumed an alias as a non-Jew and trekked with the child into the countryside.

We Are on Our Own unfolds in comic-book panels to visually recount the saga of Esther's harrowing exploitation by Hungarians, Germans and Russians alike. Miraculously, both Katin and her mother survived and were eventually reunited with Katin's father after the war.

Emigrating to Israel in 1956 and later to the U.S., Katin became an animator for MTV and Disney. She is a talented artist with a sharp eye for detail and a compelling ability to capture emotion with strong, simple lines.

Both Katin's book and Eisenstein's are worthy new access routes toward an understanding of the unfathomable evil, torment and resilience unleashed by the Shoah. But, paradoxically, they are merely sinuous, narrow pathways. As Eisenstein herself concluded after visiting the American Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.: "I will never be able to know the truth of what my parents had experienced. It is beyond my reach, and perhaps even theirs to know the full extent of their loss."

Elaine Kalman Naves is the daughter of Hungarian Holocaust survivors and the author of two memoirs about her parents' lives, Journey to Vaja and Shoshanna's Story.

I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors

By Bernice EisensteinMcClelland & Stewart, 192 pages, $32.95

We Are on Our Own: A Graphic Novel

By Miriam Katin

Drawn & Quarterly, 136 pages, $24.95
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Katin's WE ARE ON OUR OWN Festival Appearances May-June!

Updated May 4, 2006


May 31st, 2006-Toronto: Harbourfront Readings Series
www.readings.org

June 7th, 2006-Philadelphia: First Persons Art
www.firstpersonsart.org

June 10th, 2006-NYC: MoCCA Arts Festival
www.moccany.org
 

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  New Hampshire weekly reviews MIRIAM KATIN'S new memoir, WE ARE ON OUR OWN

Updated May 1, 2006


We Are On Our Own, by Miriam Katin (Drawn & Quarterly, 2006)

What forces create an atheist and the firm belief that there is no higher power keeping his eye on things? In Miriam Katin’s case, it was the Nazis’ invasion of Budapest. Katin and her mother, a Jew, escaped on foot, posing as a Russian servant with an illegitimate child. Katin’s father, meanwhile, was at the front fighting for the Hungarian army.

Katin wrote her story as a graphic novel — pictures and word balloons illustrating a fearful flight, a search for refuge and the erosion of a child’s simple faith. Where is god and, if he exists, why did he allow the Nazis to come and the strange men to hurt her mother and make her cry?

Katin is 63 now and We Are On Our Own is her first novel. After the war, her family returned to Hungary but was forced to flee again during the 1956 uprising. The clan settled in Israel where Katin served in the armed forces as a graphic artist. She moved to New York City in the 1960s and worked as an animator for Disney and MTV. She’s also illustrated children’s books and drawn several short stories in comics form.

Her drawings are beautiful — rich in content and stark with contrast — a combination of her interpretations of her mother’s stories and her own dim childhood memories. The story itself is haunting, superbly told in words and images. Katin’s mother is a hero, protecting her child at all costs, even if it literally means sleeping with the enemy.

The Holocaust changed the world, Katin says, and the scars of the survivors are as deep as any wound ever inflicted. Even those who avoided the death camps, sometimes selling themselves to do so, will always live there in some way.

In exploring her own questions about faith, Katin seems to be saying that the greatest casualty of the war was innocence and trust. A

— Robert Greene
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WE ARE ON OUR OWN: Publishers Weekly Starred Review!

Updated April 7, 2006



Starred Review
We Are on Our Own
Miriam Katin. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.99 (136p) ISBN 1-896597-20-3

This moving WWII memoir is the debut graphic novel from Katin, an animator for Disney and MTV. It tells the story of toddler Katin—here called Lisa—and her mother, Esther Levy, Hungarian Jews who must flee Nazi persecution. With her husband off fighting in the Hungarian army, Esther is forced to abandon all their belongings and take on the identity of a servant girl with a bastard child. She survives however she can—whether making alterations on the bloodstained uniforms of dead soldiers or surrendering her body to an adulterous German officer. Katin shows Esther's harrowing experiences with an objective eye, but her own experience of the time is the fragmented memory of a child; unable to understand the vast tragedy unfolding around her, she focuses on the loss of a pet dog. The story flashes forward to the '70s and even later to show the long-term effects on Katin and her family's faith. Katin's art is an impressionistic swirl; early scenes in sophisticated Budapest recall the elegance of Helen Hokinson, while the chaos of war is captured in dark, chaotic compositions reminiscent of Kathe Kollwitz. This book is a powerful reminder of the lingering price of survival. (May)


 

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  WE ARE ON OUR OWN and CRICKETS #1 reviewed in Nashville City Paper

Updated March 31, 2006


Web only column: Graphic Content
By Wil Moss, wmoss@nashvillecitypaper.com
March 31, 2006

We Are On Our Own
By Miriam Katin
(Drawn & Quarterly)
drawnandquarterly.com

[This is an early review; the book is due to be released in May.]

Miriam Katin fled Hungary in 1944 with her mother to escape the Nazi regime. We Are On Our Own is the 63-year-old's account of that time.

Katin's cartooning is like a finely detailed sketchpad; it's very easy to imagine Katin creating the drawings you're looking at. At some of the story's more active or violent moments, the art becomes appropriately chaotic and loose, as if Katin drudging up bad memories physically affected her drawing.

The number of rough situations Katin and her mother find themselves in over such a short period of time is just astonishing. And she doesn't hold back in showing how difficult and traumatic those situations could be.

The book feels at times both romanticized and brutally real. Katin in the story, through the efforts of her mother and of her young age, seems able to block out a lot of the traumatic experiences she lives through, but the ending of the story, tying in with the book's theme of looking for God, shows that she did not escape unscathed. It's a terrific memoir, and an astounding debut.


Notable singles

Good news for Sammy Harkham fans: The talented anthology contributor (and editor) has a new on-going comic book from Drawn & Quarterly called Crickets. Harkham has an understated, lyrical style, capable of transforming stories almost into fables, as in this first issue of Crickets, or conveying the mundane randomness of real life, as in his recent contribution, "Somersaulting," to Drawn & Quarterly Showcase No. 3. Crickets provides Harkham with a venue to cover both those extremes and everything in between. This first issue hits the ground running, literally and figuratively, with a guy running from a flood of arrows in the beginning of a serial called "Black Death." The guy can take an arrow through the head and keep ticking somehow, and he manages to hook up with a golem while hiding in the woods. It's a slow start, but one full of promise, both narratively and just in terms of the venue the book provides a furtive mind like Harkham's.

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Katin's WE ARE ON OUR OWN receives rave starred reviewed from Booklist!

Updated March 16, 2006


BOOKLIST March 15th, 2006

*STAR*Katin, Miriam. We Are On Our Own. May 2006. 136p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 (1-896597-20-3). 741.5.

The burgeoning popularity of graphic novels has opened the door to new voices with compelling stories and artistic skills to match; for example, 63-year-old animator Katin, whose remarkable debut this is. It is a memoir recounting how she and her mother faked their deaths and fled Budapest after the Nazi occupied the city. With forged papers obtained from a black marketer, they escaped to the countryside in the guise of a servant girl and her illegitimate child. Katin relates their harrowing lives there and her mother’s desperate search for her missing husband after the war. Brief passages set decades later reveal how Katin’s traumatic experiences left her without any religious faith to pass on to her own child. The events she reports are powerful in themselves, and her sensitive, softly expressive drawings and straightforward storytelling, both reminiscent of Raymond Briggs in Ethel & Ernest (1999), about an English couple during the same period, are likewise effective in conveying violent wartime battles, her mother’s emotionally distressing choices, and rare quiet interludes. Moreover, Katin’s understatement makes the story all the more chilling and heartbreaking. This impressive book belongs in all serious graphic novel collections and is also a natural for Jewish studies. ––Gordon Flagg

YA/M: Depicts rapes, pillaging, and warfare, but the story will move teens. GF.



 

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Miriam Katin

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We Are On Our Own





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