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Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations (Hardcover)
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Good Talk spun out from a Buzzfeed piece about a conversation Jacob had with her mixed-race son as the country prepared for an election that gave every indication of being especially vicious. Jacob is a first generation American of Indian descent. Her husband is white and Jewish, and around 2015, their eight-year-old son develops some curiosity about the fact that he looks more like his mom than his dad, that an orange blob on the TV is suddenly yelling about brown people, and what it means to look like him in a country that is suddenly hostile. The Obama presidency—which was a cause for the entire world to celebrate—was coming to an end, and the prospect of having a woman in the White House for the first time, coupled with the steadily escalating rhetoric of the alt-right, long considered a vocal but powerless group on the lunatic fringe, made America an acutely confusing place. Jacob writes of how her son’s questions ran the gamut from questions like, Did Michael Jackson lose his other glove? to Is it bad to be brown? and that through their conversations, she realized that she had taken some things for granted.
The election of a vile man brought out the vileness in a lot of people, not just in the US but across the globe. In hindsight we can identify all the telltale signs of this rightward, nationalist, racist shift, but when it came, it came out of the blue, and then sharpened into the sting of betrayal—this was not the country Jacob’s parents had immigrated to, not the country she had brought her son into.
This book made me sad but it’s also really funny. Jacob’s parents are a delight and her representation of their arranged marriage is nuanced, thoughtful and genuinely representative. Jacob writes of exploring her sexuality as a teenager and in college: being exoticized by white men while she in turn exoticized lesbians and participated in racist stereotypes. She doesn’t spare herself and her recollections are cringey and devastating and hilarious, creating an unusually full self-portrait, since this is a graphic memoir and characters appear as cut-outs collaged into different settings. It’s a quick read but will sit on you for a while like a brick, which is just as well—this is a story to dwell on.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A “beautiful and eye-opening” (Jacqueline Woodson), “hilarious and heart-rending” (Celeste Ng) graphic memoir about American identity, interracial families, and the realities that divide us, from the acclaimed author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing.
ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Chicago Tribune, The New York Public Library, Publishers Weekly • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, Time, BuzzFeed, Esquire, Literary Journal, Kirkus Reviews
“How brown is too brown?”
“Can Indians be racist?”
“What does real love between really different people look like?”
Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she’s gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love.
Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation—and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.
LONGLISTED FOR THE PEN/OPEN BOOK AWARD
“Jacob’s earnest recollections are often heartbreaking, but also infused with levity and humor. What stands out most is the fierce compassion with which she parses the complexities of family and love.”—Time
“Good Talk uses a masterful mix of pictures and words to speak on life’s most uncomfortable conversations.”—io9
“Mira Jacob just made me toss everything I thought was possible in a book-as-art-object into the garbage. Her new book changes everything.”—Kiese Laymon, New York Times bestselling author of Heavy
About the Author
Mira Jacob is the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing. Her recent work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Vogue, Glamour, Tin House, Electric Literature and Literary Hub. She lives in Brooklyn.
“[I] loved it so so much. So poignant, honest, funny, powerful, and timely, and its themes build in a way that by the end is truly artistically transcendent.”—Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and Eligible
“Among its many virtues, Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir, Good Talk, helps us think through this term [‘person of color’] with grace and disarming wit. The book lives up to its title, and reading these searching, often hilarious tête-à-têtes is as effortless as eavesdropping on a crosstown bus. . . . The medium is part of the magic. . . . The old comic-book alchemy of words and pictures opens up new possibilities of feeling. . . . The people are black and white—except, of course, they’re not.”—Ed Park, The New York Times Book Review
“Good Talk addresses head-on the complexities of being fully American while also being fully Jewish, fully Indian, fully mixed, fully whatever in the era of Trump. . . . Good Talk attempts to answer, with humor and heart, some of the most difficult questions of all.”—Bustle
“[A] showstopping memoir about race in America . . . by turns funny, philosophical, cautious, and heartbreaking . . . Particularly moving are the chapters in which Jacob explores how even those close to her retain closed-minded and culturally defined prejudices. . . . The memoir works well visually, with striking pen-and-ink drawings . . . collaged onto vibrant found photographs and illustrated backgrounds. . . . Told with immense bravery and candor, this book will make readers hunger for more of Jacob’s wisdom and light.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Breezy but poignant . . . [Mira Jacob] employs pages of narrative prose sparingly but hauntingly. . . . The ‘talks’ Jacob relates are painful, often hilarious, and sometimes absurd, but her memoir makes a fierce case for continuing to have them.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A beautiful and eye-opening account of what it means to mother a brown boy and what it means to live in this country post–9/11, as a person of color, as a woman, as an artist . . . In Jacob’s brilliant hands, we are gifted with a narrative that is sometimes hysterically funny, always honest, and ultimately healing.”—Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award–winning author of Another Brooklyn
“Good Talk begins with a child’s innocent questions about race and evolves into an honest, direct, and heartbreakingly funny journey. As a brown-skinned woman married to a Jewish man and the mother of a biracial child, I experienced this book on multiple levels: It broke my heart and made me laugh a helluva lot, but, in the end, it also forced me to ponder whether I have successfully provided the answers necessary to arm my own children against racism in America.”—Lynn Nottage, Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright of Sweat