By Frank Santoro. Published by New York Review Comics.
Softcover, 215 pages, Colour, 2019.
A moving graphic memoir about home, childhood, and family by the author of Storeyville and Pompeii.
Examining his mother and father’s broken relationship, Santoro (Pompeii) expands their story into a superb combination of family saga, coming-of-age memoir, and tribute to his hometown of Pittsburgh. Santoro’s parents currently work in the same Pittsburgh hospital, where “they pretend not to see each other.” Santoro delves into their 1960s courtship, uncovering their complicated relationships with their own parents and in-laws and exploring familial ties that both bind and chafe, including a moving tribute to family friend Denny, a bighearted man who “helped me see my parents as people.” When Santoro visits home during college, he hears new family narratives from both parents, including an affair his father had right before he was married. He describes how this happens whenever he returns: “These reveals year after year, every summer or Christmas, the story always changing.” Throughout, Pittsburgh is a character in itself, declining and renewing. Santoro’s in-the-moment sense memories of its streets and row houses are lovingly wrought in marker lines; by leaving the patched corrections on his illustrations visible, with tape and cut-outs, he underscores the sense that recollections and relationships are malleable, and there’s a sense of continuous construction, like in the city itself. He simultaneously pays tribute and bears witness in artful detail, creating an origin story sure to move many readers to reflect upon their own beginnings.
Frank Santoro's work has been exhibited at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City and at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy. He is the author of Storeyville and has collaborated with Ben Jones, Dash Shaw, Gary Panter, and others. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.