Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations

illus. by Mira Jacob. 368p. Random. Mar. 2019. Tr $30. ISBN 9780399589041.
RedReviewStarJacob's sophomore effort (after Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing) is a graphic memoir about race and family, set against the backdrop of the 2016 election and told through a series of conversations. At first, the book riffs off questions that Jacob's biracial six-year-old son, Z, asks. Some queries are simple: "Who is better, Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan?" Others reflect the child's internalization of messages from media and require more complex answers: "Is it bad to be brown?" Z's inquiries prompt memories that push Jacob to dig into her own childhood and behaviors through interactions with her immigrant parents and extended family in India. The author and her husband, Jed, talk about his white male privilege as a Jewish man and his family's conservative politics. Interactions with Jacob's friends allow her to process out loud some of the discussions described in previous scenes. The narrative spans generations, drawing parallels between Jacob and her son but also highlighting the lack of social progress. Aided by the skillful story structure, Jacob's no-holds-barred vulnerability compels reflection and empathy. The unique art style combines photographic backgrounds with illustrations of characters framed in white, like paper cutouts. Characters smartly break the fourth wall, looking directly at readers and inviting them into the narrative. Scenes of Jacob's past relationships with men and women depict nudity but nothing explicit.
VERDICT A powerful, multilayered exploration of racial identity development and complicated family dynamics. Timely and necessary.

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