Replay: Mem­oir of an Uproot­ed Family

  • Review
By – July 1, 2024

Jor­dan Mechner’s graph­ic mem­oir is about a fam­i­ly repeat­ed­ly uproot­ed. In a for­mal style that resem­bles a palimpsest, Replay traces the ways in which Mechner’s fam­i­ly has left and rebuilt home.” Ulti­mate­ly, the book empha­sizes how every deci­sion we make ends up shap­ing the course of our lives. 

The first page of Replay places the Mech­n­er fam­i­ly in a dire sit­u­a­tion. Red Nazi swastikas hang from city build­ings and lit­er­al­ly col­or the page. In a spread rem­i­nis­cent of Miri­am Katin’s bril­liant graph­ic mem­oir, We Are on Our Own, every­thing is in black and white except for the Nazi flags, draw­ing our atten­tion to their unset­tling abun­dance. Mech­n­er begins the mem­oir with this state­ment: In 1938, my grand­fa­ther was des­per­ate to get out of Aus­tria.” The heavy clut­ter of the scene con­veys a sense of being trapped. This feel­ing comes alive when Mechner’s father notices some­one trapped inside one of the build­ings. As we fol­low this first of three time­lines in the mem­oir, we dis­cov­er that Mechner’s fam­i­ly did escape Aus­tria, but that Mechner’s father was way­laid in France before the fam­i­ly could recon­nect in Cuba. France, there­fore, holds sig­nif­i­cance for the Mech­n­er family. 

Where­as the first time­line fol­lows Mechner’s father and his time uproot­ed in France, the oth­er two time­lines focus on Mech­n­er him­self. First, using blue illus­tra­tions, Mech­n­er describes his time cre­at­ing the suc­cess­ful video game Prince of Per­sia and his ear­ly fam­i­ly life. Sec­ond, shad­ing scenes yel­low, Mech­n­er debates mov­ing to France to cre­ate a new game. Replay demon­strates the con­trast between Mechner’s father’s time in France and his own, often col­laps­ing or lay­er­ing the two peri­ods. Just as his father had to rebuild a life in France with­out his imme­di­ate fam­i­ly, so too does Mech­n­er face what it means to uproot”: his mar­riage does not sur­vive the move, and his chil­dren only join him after a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time. 

As Mech­n­er chron­i­cles this uproot­ing, he also tran­scribes the mem­oir his grand­fa­ther wrote. In this way, the past con­stant­ly over­laps with the future. One exam­ple occurs at the very end of the mem­oir. After dis­cov­er­ing some lost pages from his grandfather’s mem­oir, Mech­n­er comes across the sto­ry of the pet white mouse his grand­fa­ther found upon his arrival in Cuba. Mechner’s Prince of Per­sia includes a small white mouse that helps the main char­ac­ter through the game. The image of this white mouse speaks to how small deci­sions and ran­dom con­nec­tions deter­mine the direc­tions our lives will go. 

At its core, Replay is about one family’s Holo­caust sur­vival, but it’s also about replant­i­ng our roots. 

Dr. Megan Reynolds is the Devel­op­ment Man­ag­er for the Nation­al Book Foun­da­tion. Before join­ing the Nation­al Book Foun­da­tion, Megan Reynolds served as the Devel­op­ment Coor­di­na­tor at Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. Megan holds a Ph.D. in Eng­lish from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon and BA in Eng­lish with minors in Cre­ative Writ­ing and Span­ish from Trin­i­ty Uni­ver­si­ty. She is orig­i­nal­ly from New Mex­i­co and now lives in New York City.

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