Graph­ic Details: Jew­ish Women’s Con­fes­sion­al Comics in Essays and Interviews

Sarah Light­man, ed.
  • Review
By – January 21, 2015

After read­ing Michael Kaminer’s arti­cle in The Jew­ish Dai­ly For­ward about Jew­ish women com­ic artists, Graph­ic Con­fes­sions of Jew­ish Women: Expos­ing Them­selves Through Pic­tures and Raw Per­son­al Sto­ries,” artist and writer Sarah Light­man was inspired to cre­ate an exhib­it that fea­tured con­fes­sion­al comics by Jew­ish women. The exhib­it became Graph­ic Details, the first tour­ing exhi­bi­tion that cel­e­brates and rec­og­nizes the con­tri­bu­tions of Jew­ish women artists to comics and graph­ic nov­els. Con­fes­sion­al, or auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal, comics are noth­ing new; there have been plen­ty of books and exhi­bi­tions cel­e­brat­ing the con­tri­bu­tions of Jew­ish men to the world of super­heroes and com­ic books. But as women come into their own in the world of comics and graph­ic nov­els, it’s time that they get the recog­ni­tion they deserve. Some of the eigh­teen artists fea­tured in the trav­el­ing exhi­bi­tion are well known to fans of graph­ic nov­els and comics, while oth­ers may be less famil­iar. All share some­thing impor­tant, besides great artis­tic tal­ent; they have the courage to hold their inner­most selves up for scruti­ny. For exam­ple, Diane Noomin depicts her strug­gles to have a baby in her com­ic Baby Talk: A Tale of 3 (4) Mis­car­riages.” Her sto­ry and accompa­nying art­work are full of emo­tions laid bare; she holds noth­ing back. Like­wise, read­ers may squirm at Miss Lasko-Gross’s forth­right depic­tion of her younger self’s dis­com­fort while attend­ing a Shab­bat din­ner at the home of her more obser­vant friend, or in her descrip­tion of a bath­room inci­dent. Ariel Schrag also deals with a humil­i­at­ing bath­room sit­u­a­tion. Ber­nice Eisen­stein talks about her life as a child of Holo­caust sur­vivors, while Miri­am Katin offers up her own expe­ri­ences as a child try­ing to sur­vive dur­ing the Holo­caust. Sarah Glid­den and Miri­am Libic­ki both share their very per­son­al expe­ri­ences in Israel. These are just a smat­ter­ing of exam­ples. Those lucky enough to see the entire exhi­bi­tion get to expe­ri­ence many more exam­ples of deeply per­son­al auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal, or con­fes­sion­al, comics by a group of extreme­ly tal­ent­ed women. 

The tour­ing exhib­it of orig­i­nal art­work and comics opened in 2010 at the Car­toon Art Muse­um in San Fran­cis­co. It has since trav­eled to Toron­to, New York City, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Port­land, Ore­gon, and Mia­mi Beach, Flori­da. It is cur­rent­ly on view in Lon­don, Eng­land, with future plans to return to the Unit­ed States in 2015

The book, Graph­ic Details, is a com­pi­la­tion of schol­ar­ly essays, inter­views, and reproduc­tions of some of the comics that appear in the exhi­bi­tion. Many of the comics that are on dis­play in the exhib­it and repro­duced in the book have appeared in print as indi­vid­ual graph­ic nov­els, in col­lec­tions of comics, and/​or online. The essays focus on the his­to­ry, or her­sto­ry, of Jew­ish com­ic art, and delve deep into the themes of Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, self-hatred, mem­o­ry, assim­i­la­tion, sex­u­al iden­ti­ty, and poli­tics. The con­trib­u­tors to the vol­ume are writ­ers, artists, schol­ars, and pro­fes­sors, and while the book can be seen as an accom­pa­ni­ment to the exhi­bi­tion of the same name, Graph­ic Details suc­ceeds as a stand-alone guide­book to some of the best Jew­ish women comics artists work­ing today

Relat­ed content:

Wendy Was­man is the librar­i­an & archivist at the Cleve­land Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry in Cleve­land, Ohio.

Discussion Questions