Drawn & Quarterly. Sept. 2019. 192p. ISBN 9781770463776. pap. $21.95. Rated: Teen+. MEMOIR
Nickerson’s (All We Have Left, Is This) rhapsodic prose and alternately intricate and impressionistic ink-wash illustrations transform observations about life in Hamilton, Ontario, into meditations on a variety of 21st-century concerns in this provocative memoir. The author’s worry that motherhood is keeping her from engaging with the artistic community in Hamilton is complicated by guilt over the role she and her fellow artists played in gentrifying her neighborhood. Are the art spaces, vintage stores, yoga studios, and restored Victorian architecture popping up around the economically devastated former manufacturing hub signs of actual progress or distraction from the poverty and pollution that still plague the city? Nickerson’s feelings about her hometown are spectacularly visualized in a sequence that stretches over several pages, juxtaposing an image of people floating on clouds against a map of Hamilton flowing out of a filthy garbage can. The work shines, however, following the death of a homeless woman whom the author and her son encounter on the street one day, shifting the focus to the vastly complicated and often contradictory connections that exist between people and their environments.
VERDICT An uncommonly empathic, beautifully illustrated examination of the conflict between the desire to serve and improve one’s community and the reality of the (underprivileged) community itself.

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