BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Spellbound: A Graphic Memoir by Bishakh Som [in Booklist]

Earlier this year, Bishakh Som debuted her dazzling graphic collection, Apsara Engine, the genesis of which is found here – inseparably entwined with Som’s own unique origin story. Som introduces herself in a narrative frame, bordering the memoir’s beginning and end: “I wanted to clue you in to what this book is all about,” she explains on the first page as she presents Anjali – cleverly, initially, only in pencil outline. “Loathe to draw myself … I substituted Anjali, a cisgender Bengali American woman in place of yours truly into these recollections.”

Anjali lives alone, save for kitty Ampersand. In 2012, she’s abandoned her career as a Harvard-trained architect to become a full-time graphic novelist. In her artist-as-a-not-so-young-woman journey, she ventures “back a little ways in time” to her goth teens, multicultural upbringing, her parents’ eventual passing (and ghostly cameos), and various relationships both professional and personal. Then, at 48, she “dipped a toe into trans waters” to discover “I finally kind of know who I am.”

As an artist, Som’s architecture training is evident in exquisitely detailed, mostly four-color panels. Raw and revealing, Som’s half-century of “being at sea” inspires substantial results.

Review: “Graphic Novels,” Booklist, July 2020

Readers: Adult

Published: 2020


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