By Aisha Franz. Published by Drawn & Quarterly.
Softcover, 288 pages, B&W, 2018 (originally published in German in 2016)
A BROKEN-HEARTED WOMAN DRIFTS INTO DEPRESSION AS SHE OCCUPIES HER TRAVELING NEIGHBOR’S APARTMENT
After an unexpected breakup, a young woman named Selma experiences a series of reveries and emotional setbacks. Struggling to relate to her friends and accomplish even the simplest tasks like using a modern laundromat, she sinks deeper into depression. After witnessing another couple break-up and chancing upon the jilted male of the couple, Anders, at his pet store job, Selma realizes that her mysterious neighbor is the woman of that same couple. Her growing despair distances her from from her eager and sympathetic friend. One day, as the mysterious glamorous neighbor is leaving for a business trip, Selma discovers the woman has dropped her key card to her apartment. Selma initially resists but eventually she presses the key to her neighbors lock and enters.
Aisha Franz is a master of portraying feminine loneliness and confusion while keeping her characters tough and real. Her artwork shifts from sparseness to detailed futurist with ease. Her characters fidget and twirl as they zip through a world both foreign and familiar. Base human desires and functions alternate with dreamlike symbolism to create a tension-filled tale of the nightmare that is modern life.
Translated from the German by Nicholas Houde.
Sexual frustration and crippling loneliness abound, yet the book is curiously buoyant and consistently engaging.Vulture
Aisha Franz’s Shit is Real reads like a Hitchcockian version of Sex and the City. And I mean that in the best possible way.The London Free Press
Shit Is Real is set in a near future where holograms are replacing workers, but there’s no glossy sheen... For all its darkness, there’s real energy and ingenuity: this is a wise and funny journey through loneliness and confusion.The Guardian
[Aisha Franz] imbues the story with ingenuity thanks to a surreal perspective that blurs the line between reality and dreaming.The AV Club
This story draws you in like a dream—sometimes turbulent and visceral, sometimes seamlessly mirroring waking life before diving back into the illusory. Shit is Real follows a protagonist lost in a tangle of aspirational fantasy and an increasingly disorienting near-future dystopic reality. The two extremes bleed together in the sumptuous explosion of Aisha Franz's bold, stunning drawings. Shit is Real skillfully evokes the chaos of longing that erupts when your life and identity are in limbo.Sophia Foster-Dimino, cartoonist of Sex Fantasy
[A] dreamlike exploration of depression and solitude... Selma’s journey is an affecting one. Her trek to self-actualization is twisting and forlorn—but a road worth traveling.Publishers Weekly
I don't think I've ever read a graphic novel that captures our current dystopia with such precision as Franz's Shit Is Real. She depicts, in subtle detail, how human beings find natural connections in a world controlled (not very well) by technology. Franz is a real master at storytelling, seamlessly transporting us between multiple realities that fully render her universe, while giving us an intimate portrait of friendship. I give her props for creating resilient, hopeful characters in this bleak place. Her book gives me hope.Lauren R Weinstein, cartoonist of Normel Person and Girl Stories
Shit is Real takes place in a slightly futuristic world and features a young woman reeling in the aftermath of a sudden breakup and move. The protagonist’s anxiety plays out in a narrative world of ultramodern technology and lizard aliens, and throughout the story, Franz’s artwork uncannily conjures both a sense of familiarity and displacement.LA Review of Books
This exuberant, heartbreaking dream-story is so obviously the creation of a brilliant but twitchy mind. You might want to approach with caution.Deb Olin Unferth, author of Wait Till You See Me Dance and I, Parrot