Monday, November 24, 2008

Graphic Novel Monday: At A Crossroads: Between a Rock and My Parents' Place, by Kate T. Williamson

At A Crossroads: Between a Rock and My Parents' Place, by Kate T. Williamson. Published 2008 by Princeton Architectural Press.

Click here to buy At A Crossroads from your local IndieBound-affiliated independent bookseller.

At A Crossroads: Between a Rock and My Parents' Place, is a visually lovely but emotionally bland memoir of a transition year author and illustrator Kate T. Williamson spent at her parents' place while writing a book.

Williamson has graduated from college and returned from a year in Japan; she needs some time to figure out what to do next, and to work on a book about her trip, so she returns to her hometown to get it all together. It sounds like a good premise, and I think the whole phenomenon of young adults who move back in with their family is a worthy subject for a memoir, so rich with psychological and emotional content. There's a reason a young person would choose this path over getting his or her own place- lack of confidence, lack of funds, lack of ambition or motivation. I would love to see a really great, honest exploration of this rich topic.

Unfortunately this isn't it. We follow Williamson through her crush on the 80's rock group Hall & Oates, we watch her work a dull job in a flower shop, and we see her bump into old acquaintances. We join her as she spends New Year's Eve with her parents instead of her peers, and while I can easily imagine the emotions she may have- the social awkwardness, the feelings of failure or frustration, the feeling that there must be something better- she never articulates them herself. Her pictures, especially her scenery, which eschew traditional panels and are painted in beautiful, evocative palettes, are gorgeous, but the prose never rises above simple exposition, and the emotional content is almost nonexistent. Even her drawings of people lack emotion- much of the time she draws herself from behind so we don't even see her own expressions.

So overall I was disappointed with At A Crossroads. The topic has so much potential, and the book is beautiful to look at, but Williamson just doesn't seem like she has much to say. Even the fact that it was published by a company specializing in design and visual arts, and not say a more traditional publisher of graphic novels, suggests that its strength is in its artwork. I'd love to see more of her work in the future, and I hope her storytelling grows to match her skill as an artist.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like such a good topic - too bad it fell flat.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I love the title! I too moved briefly back in with my dad after returning from Japan (my last year of college). I took some master's degree prep classes and worked 30 hrs a week. Then my dad got remarried and the stepmonster kicked me to the curb. And that's how I wound up in Germany (in a nutshell). Think that would make a better graphic memoir?

Alea said...

I've read about half of this graphic novel and have enjoyed it so far, I got it because of the topic, I'm currently living at home with my family. I guess I need to go back and revisit it to figure out how I feel about it. I also just bought her other book, A Year in Japan, love her illustration style.

Lenore- Let me know when your graphic memoir is ready I'd love to read it! ;P