Stack Overflow: Memoirs and Comics

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Today’s Stack Overflow is about autobiographies: memoirs, comics, blogs, zines … there are a lot of ways to record your own stories besides prose. Here are three books that all include a bit of autobiography and comics.

Something New

Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley has led a fascinating life. I know, because I’ve read about it. Knisley has been chronicling her life and travels, in the form of comics: French Milk was about a mother-daughter trip to Paris; Relish is all about growing up surrounded by food and foodies. Her latest book, Something New, is about getting married—from the “how we met” to the eventual engagement to the wedding planning to the wedding itself. Scattered throughout the book are some actual photographs of people or things mentioned in the book, as well as fun facts about bridal traditions (“Weird Wedding Facts”) or funny stories (“Confessions of a Wedding Planner”). Knisley confesses that she was never somebody who had put a lot of thought into weddings until her own, and so she dove into the weirdness of the wedding industry and came back with some great stories.

I’m amazed by the fact that Knisley wrote this book while planning a wedding in which she personally made a lot of the decor and accessories, from the gifts for the wedding party (homemade ties!) to decorations for the workshop (which her mom built) to personalized wedding favor notebooks for the guests. She and her now-husband John were not interested in following traditions just for tradition’s sake, but wanted to create a wedding that had meaning for them—which also meant a lot of work and tough decisions, because it’s easier (though often more expensive) to just go with the “default.” And as an artist, Knisley often preferred to make something herself whenever possible.

I really enjoyed reading Something New, maybe particularly because my own wedding was long enough ago that I was able to enjoy the craziness without having any sort of stress flashbacks—although admittedly our wedding was a simpler affair. It’s a fairly long book, too, nearly 300 pages, and there’s a lot packed into it. And the story continues: Knisley revealed in March that she and her new husband are expecting a baby (her pregnancy means she’s not doing any book tours this time), and she’s been working on a book about—what else?—pregnancy.

Stay tuned: I’ll have a podcast interview with Knisley posted later this week!

Rules for Dating My Daughter

Rules for Dating My Daughter by Mike Dawson

I backed this comic book on Kickstarter last fall, but only after reading some of the cartoons included in it and reassuring myself that the title (like the subtitle, The Modern Father’s Guide to Good Parenting) was tongue-in-cheek and not sincere. In fact, the title of the book (and the image on the cover) come from Dawson’s analysis of a “Feminist Father” T-shirt he had seen—he thinks about the implications of the message on the shirt as it relates to his own six-year-old daughter, and thinks about the “dad with shotgun” trope and what that is supposed to imply. The book is a collection of Dawson’s short comics, some of which have appeared previously in other publications or online—most of them are sort of like comic-format blog posts, with Dawson musing about one topic or another.

What I really appreciated about the book is that Dawson tends to take a more nuanced approach to most things (again, despite what the title implies), and even when in the instances where I don’t totally agree with him, I enjoyed reading his reasoning and thought process. Aside from parenting, he touches on a lot of big subjects, from climate change to immigration to gun rights.

Little Fish

Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer

Ramsey Beyer grew up in a small town in Michigan, and then moved to Baltimore to go to art school, leaving behind her family and close friends for the first time. At the time, she chronicled much of her life with zines, many of them featuring lists of things, like “Things I’ve Done (to prepare for college)” and “Words I Hate.” Little Fish is a memoir of her first year away, told in a format that combines comics with actual pages from her zine and entries from her blog (remember LiveJournal?).

It’s been a long time since I went to college, and there were a lot of differences between my own experience and Beyer’s, but I could still relate to a lot of her story—finding (or defining) her identity among new friends, being torn between her old life and her new life, discovering new interests and hobbies. The drawing style is not my favorite—it’s less polished, which fits with the theme and the zine pages, but isn’t as appealing to me. I think the book would be a good read for teens preparing for their own journeys to college and beyond, or for older readers who wants to reminisce about their college days.

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