Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
Published by One World on March 26th, 2019
Genres: Graphic Novel, Memoir, Non-Fiction
“Sometimes, you go along with it and pretend nothing happened. Sometimes, you hold your breath until the feeling of wanting to be believed passes. Sometimes, you weigh explaining against staying quiet and know they’re both just different kinds of heavy.”
This has sat in my TBR cart for months now. And I finally decided to pick this up after realizing that I’d slowed down my reading of graphic novels.
Good Talk takes readers on Jacob’s journey as a first-generation American. She delves into the difficult conversations about race, sex, love, and family that seem to be unavoidable these days.
Inspired by her popular BuzzFeed piece “37 Difficult Questions from My Mixed-Raced Son,” here are Jacob’s responses to her six-year-old, Zakir, who asks if the new president hates brown boys like him; and uncomfortable relationship advice from her parents, who came to the United States from India one month into their arranged marriage.
Jacob also investigates her own past, from her memories of being the only non-white fifth grader to win a Daughters of the American Revolution essay contest to how it felt to be a brown-skinned New Yorker on 9/11.
I really loved this graphic novel. In fact, I couldn’t put it down. It was earnest, moving, laugh-out-loud funny, and heart-warming.
Jacob did such a wonderful job with this graphic novel that I’m not even sure what to praise first.
The memoir starts off with a conversation she has with her six-year-old son, who is mixed race. She struggles to answer his questions about being Indian-American, being brown, being white, and why Donald Trump got elected. Because for her to answer his questions, she needs to examine them herself and through her own lens.
Her depiction of her childhood and being deemed ugly because she’s dark-skinned really struck a chord with me. Especially as it followed her through to her later life as she was figuring herself out through dating. What it meant to have her race brought up or what it meant when it wasn’t addressed by her partners.
I couldn’t help but become so frustrated when she covered things like white men fetishizing Indian women and interviewers explaining how things are in America even though she was born there!
And I loved how Jacob used a combination of drawings and photography to tell her story.
She combines this style with sweet and funny dialogue between her and her son. She struck that balance of talking about serious and heavy issues, but also filled the memoir full of hilarious moments.
For people who regularly read graphic novels, you might be surprised by the artwork. While it worked for me, I can see how some people might be put off by it. A lot of the artwork and photographs are reused.
I really appreciated the candidness of the memoir. It’s raw and messy. It illuminates the increasingly fractured world we live in. Nothing’s more gray than the areas of race and family, of struggling to find common ground, and of trying to talk to children to help them make sense of it all.
It’s the kind of book we all need to read post-2016. It feels very much relevant and of the time.