Spellbound: A Graphic Memoir

Street Noise. Aug. 2020. 160p. ISBN 9781951491031. pap. $18.99. Rated: Teen+. memoir
In the opening of this unconventional memoir, Som (Aspara Engine) briefly summarizes her life before transitioning into a woman and introduces readers to Anjali, a fictional avatar whom Som has placed at the center of the somewhat reimagined life events that follow. After departing her job as an architect, Anjali decides to pursue her dream of becoming a professional cartoonist. Chapters alternate between Anjali’s early years, born to Bengali parents living in Ethiopia before resettling in New York, and her struggles to complete her first book on her own terms. Along the way, she copes with the death of family members, rages against annoying hipsters, and searches for romance, which she finally finds in a woman named Titania. A final chapter explores Som’s experience as a transgender woman more fully and examines how her life and Anjali’s diverged as the character took on a life of her own.
VERDICT Som’s experimental approach to autofiction is intriguing, and her illustration and composition bring a sense of dynamism to short, diary-style chapters that coalesce into a fascinatingly complex portrait.
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