Saturday, June 4, 2016

Something New: It's good for when you're feeling Something Blue

Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride
By Lucy Knisley
Published by First Second

I love Lucy Knisley's comics. I've been following her work for years (I first mentioned her on this blog way back in 2008), and it's been wonderful to see her continued success as she has published multiple books. Since she uses her comics to tell autobiographical stories that offer a lot of insights into who she is, I feel like I've gotten to know her as a sort of friend, and with books like this (and her next book, which will be about her experience with pregnancy), which cover major life experiences, I feel like I get to celebrate them along with her.

As the title indicates, this particular book is all about Knisley's wedding, and she covers the experience in her usual fashion, not just detailing the event itself, but also examining her feelings about marriage and weddings, looking at things from the perspective of a modern-day feminist and trying to find a way to satisfy her own wants and needs alongside those of her family and friends. She's as insightful as ever, examining her reservations about weddings by looking at the sometimes-unsettling history of marriage where brides were treated as property and the ongoing struggles of certain marginalized groups who didn't always have the freedom she does to marry the person she loves, as well as all the weird baggage that societal expectations and the wedding industry bring to the affair. She also delves into her own feelings about subjects as varied as shopping for a wedding dress, clashing with her mother about plans for the ceremony and reception, and, of course, the food that will be served, using her lovely illustrations to ensure that it's never boring.

And this doesn't all happen in a vacuum, either. Rather than just jumping in to the story as planning for the wedding is beginning, Knisley takes the time to detail the history of her relationship with her husband and how, even after ending their long-term relationship because they felt the disagreed about what they wanted for their lives, they ended up engaged and planning a life together. It's a touching story, and one that pulls the reader in and gets them invested in the event itself, providing understanding of why it's so important to everyone involved.

Knisley also finds plenty of humor in everything, whether she's pointing out her own bridal foibles that come from the stress of wanting everything to be perfect or throwing in amusing collections of wedding-related products (custom-engraved bullets!), explanations of various traditions, or wedding themes that she considered (The X-Files!). As emotional as all of this can get, she keeps the tone light, and as the book gets closer to the big day, I was cheering her on as she solved problems, put her crafting skills to work to create decorations and handmade gifts, and gathered her friends and family together in celebration.

And here's where I'm going to do something I don't do too often here and discuss my personal life. Right now, after a 14-year marriage and three children, my wife and I are in the midst of a divorce, which makes my choice to read and review this book at this time somewhat perverse. Divorce is difficult at the best of times, and while I don't feel the need to go into details about mine, I'll just say that this is not the best of times. With all the hurt and betrayal that I'm feeling right now, just thinking about weddings and marriage brings up all sorts of emotions, with many of them being pretty negative. But Knisley is so good at what she does that this book overcomes all of that baggage and makes me feel like celebrating love again. I'm glad I get to experience the beauty and joy of two people who want to celebrate their life together, and that's a real gift.

I'm regularly amazed at the openness and honesty that Knisley displays in her comics and how much she is willing to reveal about herself. She obviously puts a lot of thought into every comic she makes, and it really shows; she's not only entertaining and funny, but she creates beautiful images that utilize the comics format wonderfully to tell stories that examine both her internal and external life. I'm happy that I get to follow her as she shares her journey through life, and I'm always looking forward to the insights that she brings to each stop along the way.

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