Thursday, August 16, 2012

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say is a graphic memoir interspersed with photographs, cultural and historical references, all telling a remarkable story of an artist who was still a boy when life invited him to take control of his circumstances and become a man.  He tells the story of his childhood with no apologies nor does he try to romanticize things.  Rather, he tells his story through images and words.

The author was born when Japan was at war with China and the violence of the world continued to escalate through World War II.  When his parents divorce, his mother strives to have her son and daughter with her.  When her son is old enough for school, she works tirelessly to provide the best education for him and moves him in with her own mother to ensure his future.

But Say has ideas of his own and when he is left more to himself than he could ever dream to be, he dares to approach one of his comic artists after being inspired by a story he read in a newspaper.

Of course, the reader knows that the young boy will grow up to be an artist because the evidence is right there on the page.  And yet his journey as an artist is so compelling that the book itself is impossible to put down.  The conclusion is especially remarkable as he is offered an opportunity that will force him to make a choice that will change his life, and possibly his future, erevocably.

I want to say so much more about this book but to do so would give too much away.  I ached for him and rejoiced at every triumph.  I had completely forgotten that I'd also read his wonderful book Grandfather's Journey.  The two books together are a treasure and I am only sorry that I didn't read them both at the same time.  I'll be looking to add these books to Bibi's bookshelf or, at the very least, borrow them from the library when she's older and can appreciate the stories Say tells in both words and images.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Then Again by Diane Keaton

Then Again by Diane Keaton is everything one would expect from a memoir by a woman who embraces her quirkiness.  When her mother died, Keaton inherited a collection of papers--including letters, scrapbooks, and journals--her mother had accumulated through the years.   These papers reveal to Keaton a woman she both knew and didn't know and, above all else, loved.

Interpolating her own memories, inserting parallel journal entries by both herself and her mother written around the same time, and never letting her loyalties to those who have touched her heart, Keaton a heartwarming account of her life, replete with celebrity names.   This is not a kiss-and-tell book nor is it strongly feminist, although Keaton does discuss both the opportunities she had that her mother couldn't because of the times in which they both respectively lived and she honestly looks at her own mid-life career as an actress in a youth saturated industry.

With every turn of the page, Keaton expresses a sincere gratitude for all the parts of her life; her confusion and quirkiness abound as does her compassion.  She doesn't dish the dirt to pander to paparazzi driven needs as some writers might. Instead, she honors everything--every moment and every person--for being a part of her life.  After all, how many women are afforded the opportunity to have an intimate relationship with their adolescent movie star crush?

If you already love Diane Keaton, the actress, be prepared to love her even more.  If you like her, don't be surprised if you find yourself falling in love.  And if you are hoping she'll tell you what she really thinks about Woody Allen's relationship with Mia Farrow or how good Warren Beatty is in bed, you'll be profoundly disappointed.  As for me, I was perfectly delighted.
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