Let­ting It Go

  • Review
June 26, 2013

Sev­er­al pages into Miri­am Katin’s graph­ic mem­oir, Let­ting It Go, we see four sym­met­ri­cal and beau­ti­ful­ly ren­dered col­ored-pen­cil draw­ings of the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge loom­ing over the Hud­son Riv­er. The seascape shifts image by image, and the words care­ful­ly sketched out at the top of each pan­el reveal a slow entry into the com­pli­cat­ed and dif­fi­cult task of the very artis­tic project we are hold­ing in our hands: So, where does a sto­ry begin?” the nar­ra­tor asks at the top of the first panel. 

Katin’s sec­ond mem­oir is a kind of corol­lary to her first, suc­cess­ful book, We Are On Our Own, a graph­ic mem­oir that recount­ed the sto­ry of how she and her moth­er escaped the Nazi inva­sion of Budapest. In her ear­li­er, more con­ven­tion­al­ly-styled book, Katin relates a bro­ken child­hood, and the sto­ry ends with a girl steeped in a deep cyn­i­cism and dis­trust of the world around her. In the final image of We Are On Our Own, a young Miri­am, wear­ing a short-sleeved, girly dress and bows in her hair, plunges a fork into a toy sol­dier as she ques­tions the exis­tence of God. 

Pub­lished sev­en years lat­er, Let­ting It Go picks up with the sto­ry of a mid­dle-aged Miri­am Katin, who lives with her hus­band in an apart­ment in Wash­ing­ton Heights and grap­ples, among oth­er things, with writer’s/artist’s block and a cock­roach inva­sion. These details – the ins-and-outs of New York City life as an artist – serve as thought­ful digres­sions to the pri­ma­ry focus of the sto­ry: Miriam’s inabil­i­ty to accept her adult son’s deci­sion to move to Berlin, a city that rep­re­sents her dark past. In Let­ting It Go, Katin inter­weaves her telling of these every­day dis­tur­bances along­side her grap­pling with the mem­o­ries that haunt her, reveal­ing how that past lives on in the present. This book-long med­i­ta­tion, pre­sent­ed in visu­al­ly-styl­ized frag­ments, expos­es the narrator’s emo­tion­al states as she jour­neys through the process of con­fronting, reliv­ing, and at some points even releas­ing her ties to that past.

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