Thursday, June 5, 2008

We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin

This is an amazing book. I suggest you all run straight out to your library or bookstore now and pick it up. Seriously.

We Are On Our Own is a memoir in the form of a graphic novel, a genre I've seen called graphic memoirs, visual autobiographies, and even autobifictionalography, among others.

It's a very dark, serious book about Katin's childhood as a Jew in Hungary during World War II. Her father was off fighting, and she was at home with her mother. When her mother received papers telling her to put all her belongings in storage and report for deportation (or hopefully "only" deportation), her apparently wealthy mother obtains fake papers and takes Katin off to make a living sewing in a small village. They live on the run, in hiding, for a while, and when the war is over wait to find out whether Katin's father is still alive.

The story is told from the point of view of Katin, who seems about four or five years old at the time in which the book is set, which provides the sort of details not usually found in stories of the Holocaust. There were so many horrors, I think, that people who were adults at the time generally don't remember some of the smaller tragedies, or at least don't think to tell them. But since Katin was a child, she remembers things like the loss of her dog. The first indication we have that Katin is living during war time, and maybe her first memory of the war, is when her mother is forced to turn in Katin's dog to the Nazi's.

In addition, since this is Katin's story and Katin was with her mother, we see the war from a woman's perspective. This is not something that is available that often, women's war stories. All the more reason this book is an absolute treasure.

In the cover image above, you can get a sense of Katin's drawing style. The color in the flags is a rare addition; inside, most of the drawings are dark pencil sketches, with beautiful impressionist-like color sketches saved for scenes of pre-war and post-war times.


Heather Johnson said...

This really does sound interesting, but my library system doesn't have it ... nor do they have Persopolis ... I'm getting a bit irritated over here!

Rebecca Reid said...

You've convinced me to give this genre a try.

gautami tripathy said...

I suppose I should try to win this!