Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Snippets of dialogue between Jacob (The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing) and her family and friends form the basis of this breezy but poignant graphic memoir that takes on racism, love, and the election of President Trump. The bisexual daughter of Indian immigrants, Jacob effectively conveys how the 2016 election impacted LGBTQ folks and people of color in ways that were searing, personal, and often misunderstood (such as that awkward moment when the older gentlemen at her mother-in-law's dog's "bark mitzvah" think she's the help). As her Trump-supporting Jewish in-laws insist they still love her, her six-year-old son wants to know not only if he can turn white like Michael Jackson (and "Did he lose his other glove?"), but how to tell which white people are afraid of brown people. Jacob pastes simple character drawings, cut like paper dolls staring directly at the reader, over grainy photos of New York City, her childhood home in New Mexico, and other locales, emphasizing the contingency of identity. The collage effect creates an odd, immediate intimacy. She employs pages of narrative prose sparingly but hauntingly, as when she learns that a haughty, wealthy woman once lost a child: "in that place where you thought you would find a certain kind of woman... is someone you cannot begin to imagine." The "talks" Jacob relates are painful, often hilarious, and sometimes absurd, but her memoir makes a fierce case for continuing to have them. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Jacob's sophomore effort (after Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing) is a graphic memoir about race and family, set against the backdrop of the 2016 election and told through a series of conversations. At first, the book riffs off questions that Jacob's biracial six-year-old son, Z, asks. Some queries are simple: "Who is better, Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan?" Others reflect the child's internalization of messages from media and require more complex answers: "Is it bad to be brown?" Z's inquiries prompt memories that push Jacob to dig into her own childhood and behaviors through interactions with her immigrant parents and extended family in India. The author and her husband, Jed, talk about his white male privilege as a Jewish man and his family's conservative politics. Interactions with Jacob's friends allow her to process out loud some of the discussions described in previous scenes. The narrative spans generations, drawing parallels between Jacob and her son but also highlighting the lack of social progress. Aided by the skillful story structure, Jacob's no-holds-barred vulnerability compels reflection and empathy. The unique art style combines photographic backgrounds with illustrations of characters framed in white, like paper cutouts. Characters smartly break the fourth wall, looking directly at readers and inviting them into the narrative. Scenes of Jacob's past relationships with men and women depict nudity but nothing explicit. VERDICT A powerful, multilayered exploration of racial identity development and complicated family dynamics. Timely and necessary.-Alec Chunn, Eugene Public Library, OR © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
A novelist explores the perils and joys of parenting, marriage, and love in this showstopping memoir about race in America.When her 6-year-old, half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, started asking complicated questions about Michael Jackson's skin color, Jacob (The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, 2014) faced the challenge of being honest about racism in America without giving him answers that might be too much to handle at such a tender age. The result is this series of illustrated conversations between Z and the author, by turns funny, philosophical, cautious, and heartbreaking. "Every question Z asked," writes Jacob, "made me realize the growing gap between the America I'd been raised to believe in and the one rising fast all around us." These reflections compelled the author to excavate her formative years in New Mexico and, later, in New York as a young writer struggling through her 20s. Jacob grew up navigating a constant stream of expectations from her parents, who emigrated from India to the American Southwest in the middle of the civil rights movement. Particularly moving are the chapters in which Jacob explores how even those close to her retain closed-minded and culturally defined prejudices. With grace and honesty, the author chronicles how she navigated the racist assumptions of an employer and dealt with Indian relatives who viewed her as "a darkie" with no marriage prospects as well as the devastating decision of her Jewish in-laws to vote for Donald Trump. "I feel awful," Jacob explained to her husband. "I feel like they've abandoned me." The memoir works well visually, with striking pen-and-ink drawings of Jacob and her family that are collaged onto vibrant found photographs and illustrated backgrounds. Occasionally the author reuses a drawing to spectacular effect, as when the faces of a white boyfriend and colleague from her past show up in a collage about the responses of white Americans to Trump's candidacy. Told with immense bravery and candor, this book will make readers hunger for more of Jacob's wisdom and light.The visual echoes between past and present make this extraordinary memoir about difficult conversations all the more powerful. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.