Thursday, March 10, 2022

Sk8 Dad Summer: ramps, rebellion, and raising a kid

Sk8 Dad Summer is one publication in the 2022 Birdcage Bottom Books distribution list, for which there is a Kickstarter currently happening (and I hope that you help fund - go check it out!). As a parent of young children, I found a lot to relate to in this book. It is a refreshingly real look at parenting that I feel captures the spirit of contemporary culture. And although I have not been a dedicated skater, I could empathize with wanting to share my interests and joys with my children, though they often have their own ideas about what is cool and what they would prefer to do.

The main narrative of this book involves the author making a half pipe in his backyard, but he uses this device as a platform for pondering multiple aspects of his life. He thinks about when he was as a young skater and how his life has changed now that he is in his 40s. Once, he literally had to scavenge materials and deal with prohibitive authorities, but now he is part of the authority structure and can readily buy high quality construction materials. Now, he tries to encourage his child to skate, with mixed results. It also makes him think of his own relationship with his father, who was a preacher. The skate ramp also becomes a center of activity for the neighborhood, attracting both nearby children and parents, so it embodies a certain sense of community. 

All of these threads of the story weave into a humorous exploration of  parenthood, community, marriage, and life in general. In many ways, it reminded me of the recent aging punk anthology I read, in that it shows how being a skater informed his life in a way that has colored his experiences and formed his ethics. And although it is relatively short, this book is memorable, packing a heartfelt and emotional punch. It is highly entertaining, insightful, and frequently funny. I loved reading it, and I cannot wait to have a hard copy in my hands.

This book's creator Brett Hamil is an artist, comedian, and writer who regularly publishes comics in Seattle's Child. He also draws a weekly political comic for the South Seattle Emerald. I just been getting into his various works, and I have dug what I have seen so far.

I could only locate one review of this book so far, and it was a positive one. Cheryl Murfin (scroll to page 57) called it a "sweet, funny, poignant little book." It deserves much more attention, and I hope it receives it.

Sk8 Dad Summer was/will be published by Birdcage Bottom Books, and they offer a preview and more here on their Kickstarter page. Please consider funding this and other great books from this indie publisher. The campaign ends in a week on March 17, and they could use your support.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Clutter: A Scatterbrained Sexual Assault Memoir


I recently received this book as a reward for backing its Kickstarter campaign. Clutter is a frank and enlightening look at one person's coping mechanisms for dealing with sexual assault. It is a thoughtful and moving account of how trauma affected her life, as she went through a few ordeals as a young girl, and all her attempts to tamp them down were for naught. 

I appreciated the honesty and candor put on the pages here, and it is hopeful to see how she eventually learned to deal with trauma through a combination of methods, including therapy and mindfulness exercises. I know that the statistics on sexual assault for females are pretty horrific, and having a text like this that can be a beacon to those who might not want to broach what is largely a taboo topic. It could be a great resource for someone who is suffering in silence, and I feel it could also be helpful to those who might know someone who experiences sexual violence, as it provides insights into relationships and how one might try to be an ally. 

Given the subject matter, there is much in this book that can be difficult to read, but I feel that the colorful, attractive artwork makes the text more approachable. That, combined with the format, which is broken up into shorter episodes and comic strip-like formatting in places, creates an inviting structure that puts a sense of order on the "scatter-brained" reflections. This book might not be for everyone, but I feel that it is an important one for its audience.

Clutter is the creation of Ariel Bordeaux, and an earlier version of it served as her senior thesis at the Center For Cartoon Studies. This version is expanded and contains an epilogue and copious footnotes. Bordeaux is known for her auto-biographical comics especially, the mini-comics series Deep Girl, as well as other works such as the comics series Raisin Pie. She speaks about her art and career in this interview.

I was not able to find any reviews of this book online, which is a shame because I feel it deserves much more attention. It currently has a 4.33 (out of 5) star rating on Goodreads.

Clutter was published by Fieldmouse Press, and they offer a preview and more info about it here.