Author: Edited by Heike Bauer, Andrea Greenbaum and Sarah Lightman
Format: Paperback, Hardcover & eBook
Publish Date: April 2023
Publisher: Syracuse University Press
Catalog ID: ISBN: 978-0815637813 (paper), 978-0815637714 (hardcover), 978-0815655657 (eBook)
By Anita White
“It [is] difficult to find … readers who are willing to take on the challenging task of bearing witness to our difficult stories. … Comics in healthcare [i.e., Graphic Medicine] can uniquely bear witness to stigmatized stories, ones that might not find a home elsewhere, stories that are often hard to tell and to receive….” From an introduction by Michael Green and Mk Czerwiec to the chapter “Before Last Things: An Interview with Marissa Moss and Joshua Feder,” page 37
I was moved by the documentary stories in Jewish Women in Comics that cover a wide range of issues from medical challenges to one’s relationship to Jewish history and the past. Documentary art in the form of drawings and comics is an important tool to describe the inner reality of a medical diagnosis or one’s relationship to challenging history.
Note: The word “Document” originates from the Latin Documentum, which denotes a “teaching” or “lesson”. The verb “doceo” denotes” to teach”.
These emotional documentary drawings teach us how a woman moves through fertility challenges as in the comic by Emily Steinberg (“Broken Eggs/Broken Dreams”) or Nancy Miller facing a difficult cancer diagnosis (“From Surreality to Surreality”). Also revealed are the heartbreaking emotions and truths of living with a spouse’s terminal illness (“Before Last Things: An Interview with Marissa Moss and Joshua Feder”). These stories teach empathy through deep visual images and words.
This rich compilation of stories reveals and teaches us how challenging medical moments can be and how comics can be a “medium between past and present. ” Through these nuanced pieces the reader goes deeper into the “roles of ritual and Jewish identity. ” Images can illuminate ancient biblical text and bring it into the 21st century.
Fascination juxtapositions of culture are explored in “On Deep Home” by The Surreal McCoy. This story shows the power of images to cross cultures and takes us into the heart of how two cultures Iraqi and British can coexist through the medium of a weekly family gathering. Her work shows “comics as a medium between past and present. ”
Other themes in the book span drawing through time into the present moment as with Sarah Lightman’s “Book of Sarah: Writing through the Past” and Sharon Rudahl’s “Die Bubbah” which shows how stories of our ancestors shape us.
Jewish Women in Comics is divided into 3 parts: Comics, Interviews and Essays. This approach allows us to understand the graphic and emotional material from several angles. Comics showing challenging medical moments as well as cultural tensions reveal the weft and warp of these stories. Deep liminal memories of the Holocaust are woven into stories of LGBTQ identity and struggle.
It was particularly interesting to see how comics figure into the strict orthodox world as in the essay “Religious Mommy Comics” by Noa Lea Cohn where Motherhood is portrayed by religious orthodox women.
The domestic and psychological landscape of Charlotte Solomon is also illuminated in the essay “A Family in Crisis” by Sophie Hardach.
A phrase that struck me was “the site of memory” (“liex de memoire,” 166) to describe the process by which real experiences become unreal as they transition into memory. Those thoughts and themes are also woven throughout the book and give one pause as one considers time, memory and the ability of comics to reach through all these deep complexities to find meaning and insight. In essence these stories are a “Documentum” an insightful teaching tool for us to understand inner and outer challenges illuminated by images.
Anita White lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her two cats. She is an artist and Documentary Drawer who draws every day. She has drawn her way through a myriad of challenging moments: medical crisis, caregiving, death and grief. Drawing her way through her late husband’s medical crisis led to a creative relationship with Hennepin Healthcare (County Hospital) Her drawings were shown in 2017 “Drawing through Crisis with Courage and Humor” Then followed a deep documentary drawing project. “Drawing a Day in the Life of Hennepin HealthCare” 2018 – 2019. Anita uses drawing to pay attention to those not seen and likes to give small drawn portraits to those she meets. An upcoming digital show will be called “I Gave All These Drawings Away!”