Liana Fincks Bin­tel Brief com­ic is cur­rent­ly being seri­al­ized in the For­ward. She will be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

This is the first page of a com­ic book I’m work­ing on. It’s based on the Bin­tel Brief, a pop­u­lar Yid­dish advice col­umn pub­lished in the Forvertz News­pa­per begin­ning in 1906. It was the brain­child of Abra­ham Cahan, the man behind the huge suc­cess and sophis­ti­ca­tion of the Forvertz.

About this page: Jacob Zem­sner is a fic­tion­al char­ac­ter, and this myth about the tears is fic­tion­al too, but Abra­ham Cahan is one of my favorite real char­ac­ters ever, a self-made Amer­i­can. His face real­ly was vague­ly heart-shaped, and he was cross-eyed and ter­ri­bly embar­rassed about that. More facts: he loved Charles Dick­ens. He was a human­ist from a dis­tance, a mis­an­thropist close-up. He was an anar­chist (he had to flee East­ern Europe at twen­ty-two because he was involved with the group that had assas­si­nat­ed the Czar), then a social­ist, but not enough of a purist to sat­is­fy any die-hard ide­alogues. He kept remak­ing him­self. I com­plete­ly rec­om­mend his auto­bi­og­ra­phy, the Edu­ca­tion of Abra­ham Cahan. A page-turn­er. Also his nov­el, The Rise of David Levin­sky, which is slight­ly dat­ed but no less won­der­ful because of that. And eas­i­er to find in a library than his autobiography.

Sev­en of the ten sto­ries I made are adapt­ed from Bin­tel Brief let­ters that had­n’t been trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish yet, and lift­ed the oth­er three sto­ries from the col­lec­tion of Bin­tel Brief let­ters in Eng­lish, owned by most grandparents.The book is not fin­ished yet, and I’m often asked why I chose to make it. I’m not sure. I was raised in Jew­ish cir­cles but nev­er could kin­dle much of a feel­ing of belong­ing to any group. And why comics? I had to start forc­ing myself to learn about comics a cou­ple of years after decid­ing (late) that comics would be the eas­i­est art­form for me to squeeze my inter­ests (draw­ing, telling sto­ries) into. So I’m not a Jew in the tra­di­tion­al sense, and not a comics artist either, but the one thing I feel strong­ly about is that hon­esty is not some­thing you can aim for. 

In art you have to painstak­ing­ly build a sto­ry (first you have to painstak­ing­ly build a self to tell it). Once your house is com­plete, down to the arti­fi­cial win­dows, real light will shine through. I hope some­thing will shine through these sto­ries, in the lines and let­ters. What­ev­er the out­come, I’ll make comics for the rest of my life. Time is a good tool for art. 

Here’s the first page of the first sto­ry. This sto­ry is based on the actu­al first let­ter that was writ­ten to Cahan. Cahan wrote about the let­ter in his auto­bi­og­ra­phy

Liana Finck­’s Bin­tel Brief com­ic is being made with help from the Six Points Fel­low­ship for emerg­ing Jew­ish artists, a part­ner­ship between Avo­da Arts, JDub Records and the Foun­da­tion for Jew­ish Cul­ture. The com­ic is being seri­al­ized in The For­ward Newsaper.

Liana Finck is the author of Pass­ing for Human and Excuse Me and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to The New York­er. She is a recip­i­ent of a Ful­bright Fel­low­ship, a New York Foun­da­tion for the Arts Fel­low­ship, and a Six Points Fel­low­ship for Emerg­ing Jew­ish Artists. She has had artist res­i­den­cies with Mac­Dow­ell, Yad­do, the Low­er Man­hat­tan Cul­tur­al Coun­cil, Head­lands Cen­ter for the Arts, and Willa­pa Bay.