BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Ish by Adam de Souza [in Booklist]

Canadian cartoonist/illustrator Adam de Souza gathers three previously published zines – ish (2017), and so you write it down (2018), and coda (2021) – to forge a loose journey confronting devastating loss and subsequent attempts at moving forward. In a narrative divided into brief vignettes, de Souza initially presents mostly black-and-white images unpredictably paneled, with intermittent colorful pages that seem to designate a narrative shift. Halfway through, tinted lines burst into panels and pages filled with peaches, turquoises, and golds, as if black and white is no longer enough. Vagueness looms throughout, emphasizing life’s ambivalence and unknowing.

The protagonist is initially a young child who is about to lose her mother – perhaps in a car accident as the cover suggests – leaving both father and daughter understandably bereft. “There is a sadness growing here. Its nature is to consume,” the pages continue. Coping mechanisms include the extreme, “dive therapy” into utter darkness, as well as the more accessible writing and remembering.

The “coda” – “and here we are, years later” – offers no easy conclusions, “rarely certain,” accepting a final “ish.” De Souza creates for intrepid readers comfortable with ambiguity.

Review: “Graphic Novels,” Booklist, February 1, 2021

Readers: Adult

Published: 2022 (United States)



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