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Spellbound: A Graphic Memoir

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This exquisite graphic novel memoir by a transgender artist, explores the concept of identity by inviting the reader to view the author moving through life as she would have us see her, that is, as she sees herself. Framed with a candid autobiographical narrative, this book gives us the opportunity to enter into the author's daily life and explore her thoughts on themes of This exquisite graphic novel memoir by a transgender artist, explores the concept of identity by inviting the reader to view the author moving through life as she would have us see her, that is, as she sees herself. Framed with a candid autobiographical narrative, this book gives us the opportunity to enter into the author's daily life and explore her thoughts on themes of gender and sexuality, memory and urbanism, love and loss.


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This exquisite graphic novel memoir by a transgender artist, explores the concept of identity by inviting the reader to view the author moving through life as she would have us see her, that is, as she sees herself. Framed with a candid autobiographical narrative, this book gives us the opportunity to enter into the author's daily life and explore her thoughts on themes of This exquisite graphic novel memoir by a transgender artist, explores the concept of identity by inviting the reader to view the author moving through life as she would have us see her, that is, as she sees herself. Framed with a candid autobiographical narrative, this book gives us the opportunity to enter into the author's daily life and explore her thoughts on themes of gender and sexuality, memory and urbanism, love and loss.

30 review for Spellbound: A Graphic Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    In an intellectually interesting exercise, a transgender woman makes a roman à clef graphic diary wherein she portrays herself as a cis-gender woman. Unfortunately, she then spends most of the book writing about a time when she isolated herself to work on her first graphic novel and way, way, way too many panels are spent describing what food she is eating for lunch and which wine she is drinking with it. And then joking about how much wine she is drinking, and then drinking more wine, and more In an intellectually interesting exercise, a transgender woman makes a roman à clef graphic diary wherein she portrays herself as a cis-gender woman. Unfortunately, she then spends most of the book writing about a time when she isolated herself to work on her first graphic novel and way, way, way too many panels are spent describing what food she is eating for lunch and which wine she is drinking with it. And then joking about how much wine she is drinking, and then drinking more wine, and more wine, and more wine. So, I'm worried about her unresolved drinking problem, but found myself too bored to care about much else. It didn't help that the lettering is atrociously stylized and rather than being able to read sentences, I found myself reading each individual word, pausing frequently to second-guess my first interpretation. Tedious.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Review to come - I also read Apsara Engine by this author earlier this year, and that was all the stars, loved it so much - this is a little more staid, about the artist's life as she sees it. Review to come - I also read Apsara Engine by this author earlier this year, and that was all the stars, loved it so much - this is a little more staid, about the artist's life as she sees it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maia

    Bishakh Som discovers the power and potential in creating an alter-ego who both is, and is not, the self in this gorgeously drawn almost-memoir. Using the character of Anjali, Som writes about an international childhood spent in Ethiopia, India, and New York City. She writes of the death of her parents and the gutsy decision to quit a dull, safe job to pursue an uncertain creative dream. We, the readers, are the benefactors of this leap into the unknown. Along the way she also begins to further Bishakh Som discovers the power and potential in creating an alter-ego who both is, and is not, the self in this gorgeously drawn almost-memoir. Using the character of Anjali, Som writes about an international childhood spent in Ethiopia, India, and New York City. She writes of the death of her parents and the gutsy decision to quit a dull, safe job to pursue an uncertain creative dream. We, the readers, are the benefactors of this leap into the unknown. Along the way she also begins to further explore her own queerness and gender identity. How fortunate that Anjuli, and Som, chose comics! (Thank you to the publisher, Street Noise Books, for letting me read an advanced reader copy of this book.)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    Points for a very macro concept of taking us through her life as she would see herself, not how everyone else perceived her growing up as trans. But I simply cannot get behind the poor font choice that makes it super difficult to read and therefore dive into the words she uses. The graphics are homegrown as an artist which I can appreciate, but others can't because the text is also hard to read. I don't know why I downloaded it because I don't necessarily see this as marketed toward YA, it's an Points for a very macro concept of taking us through her life as she would see herself, not how everyone else perceived her growing up as trans. But I simply cannot get behind the poor font choice that makes it super difficult to read and therefore dive into the words she uses. The graphics are homegrown as an artist which I can appreciate, but others can't because the text is also hard to read. I don't know why I downloaded it because I don't necessarily see this as marketed toward YA, it's an adult memoir that can be read by teens with an interest.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Liz Yerby

    More trans comics please

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I would have liked to give this book four stars. The author is obviously a mature talent; everything is done deliberately to have the effect it has. The drawing is excellent, and plot and personalities come across well. However, it does drag a little, and as one reviewer says, it gets a little tedious to watch her draw her graphic novel, be semi-depressed, and constantly drink wine. It also confused me for a while that the author portrays herself as a cis woman. Eventually, I got it (and would ha I would have liked to give this book four stars. The author is obviously a mature talent; everything is done deliberately to have the effect it has. The drawing is excellent, and plot and personalities come across well. However, it does drag a little, and as one reviewer says, it gets a little tedious to watch her draw her graphic novel, be semi-depressed, and constantly drink wine. It also confused me for a while that the author portrays herself as a cis woman. Eventually, I got it (and would have sooner if I'd read the jacket blurb): it's her life, but as she's seen herself, and absent any hassle caused by being trans. I kind of like that. The parts with her parents were excellent, and the takedown of pretentious hipsters at a party was hilarious. The parts about interacting with people from the architectural jobs she takes are interesting. The author writes as her current self at the beginning and end, which pulls the book together nicely.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Simant Verma

    This graphic memoir by a desi author was a great exploration of identity. Som tells her story of finding herself through a journey of grief and loss. She has created a girl Anjali, to represent her story and the various phases she went through in her life. We get to see her story after she quits her job to work on her graphic novel. Reading about her parents, all the cultural representation, Bengali food..my heart was full. There wasn't any such adventure in the story itself. Unlike most of the gr This graphic memoir by a desi author was a great exploration of identity. Som tells her story of finding herself through a journey of grief and loss. She has created a girl Anjali, to represent her story and the various phases she went through in her life. We get to see her story after she quits her job to work on her graphic novel. Reading about her parents, all the cultural representation, Bengali food..my heart was full. There wasn't any such adventure in the story itself. Unlike most of the graphic novels, this wasn't fast-paced and the stories felt a bit disjointed sometimes. Also did I tell you we have an adorable cat in the story? The biggest complaint I had with this book, however, was the poor font-choice! I don't know why they chose it. It was pretty hard even for my perfectly healthy eyes to read it! I had to pay so much focus and that certainly took away a lot of enjoyment. I wish there was more of the part where she found her identity and transitioned. It felt very sudden. Also, I don't know why it is marketed as YA when it is clearly and Adult memoir?! Overall, not the best collection, but nonetheless an enjoyable one. Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Facebook | Ko-fi |Amazon

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sofia S.

    3.5 stars!!! Thank you to the publisher and edelweiss+ for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own! This was a very sweet graphic memoir I would recommend to anyone wanting a chill read! This definitely isn't a memoir of exciting adventures – nothing much happens, actually – and yet I still found the story interesting and engaging. My favourite part was most definitely following Anjali through the whole process of the making of this graphic novel; as a 3.5 stars!!! Thank you to the publisher and edelweiss+ for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own! This was a very sweet graphic memoir I would recommend to anyone wanting a chill read! This definitely isn't a memoir of exciting adventures – nothing much happens, actually – and yet I still found the story interesting and engaging. My favourite part was most definitely following Anjali through the whole process of the making of this graphic novel; as a close second, learning more about Indian culture was something I found very interesting and loved as well! Also, the cat is adorable and I love him to death. The drawing style wasn't my favorite, and I found the writing a liiiiittle hard to read every once in a while, but this in no way made me love this any less. In the end, this was a very enjoyable read and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Masterful, personable, engaging, touching, fascinating. I may have enjoyed this memoir even more than the collection of the author's fictional work that also came out this year. Masterful, personable, engaging, touching, fascinating. I may have enjoyed this memoir even more than the collection of the author's fictional work that also came out this year.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Adriana Martinez Figueroa

    A great exploration of identity through grief and loss, not just of family members but of gender and sexuality. Som speaks on the distance one does in order to figure out identity through art, even as everything changes, and the ways that there are certain expectations we put on ourselves and that others put on us. It was a touching memoir that in the beginning tells you is written as through a fictional lens, again as a way to create distance between artist and art, until the line blurs togethe A great exploration of identity through grief and loss, not just of family members but of gender and sexuality. Som speaks on the distance one does in order to figure out identity through art, even as everything changes, and the ways that there are certain expectations we put on ourselves and that others put on us. It was a touching memoir that in the beginning tells you is written as through a fictional lens, again as a way to create distance between artist and art, until the line blurs together. Thanks to Edelweiss and Street Noise Books for the ARC! The paperback is out on August 25th, 2020.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    The author gives a very cursory explanation at the beginning, that this is a memoir but that the main character isn't the author, but a stand-in. This made the story confusing for me. How many other characters were gender-swapped from their real-life counterparts? If the main character, who presents female, talks with a transgender woman about transitioning, then in real life was the male-presenting (at the time) author actually talking to a transgender man...? It probably doesn't really matter, The author gives a very cursory explanation at the beginning, that this is a memoir but that the main character isn't the author, but a stand-in. This made the story confusing for me. How many other characters were gender-swapped from their real-life counterparts? If the main character, who presents female, talks with a transgender woman about transitioning, then in real life was the male-presenting (at the time) author actually talking to a transgender man...? It probably doesn't really matter, but I couldn't wrap my head around which characters might have been stand-ins, too. Readers may skip the intro and outro and feel a little less confused. They day-by-day in-the-life-of-an-artist will be interesting for aspiring writers... and anyone who has fantasized about it. The chapters read a journal entries interspersed with some family backstory. Forward time jumps weren't well-indicated: sometimes the story goes back to discuss a family episode, usually for only one chapter, before returning to the present, but sometimes the backstory continued. Sometimes several chapters in a row were contemporary, but with chunks of days or weeks between them, and those weren't indicated, only inferred through text halfway down the page. So in addition to being a little confused as to who's-who, there is a frequent feeling of being unmoored in time, or at least of time not being firmly identified. I am more interested in the author's coming-out story, transitioning in her late 40s, so I'll definitely look for other works by this author.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carissa

    I wasn’t impressed by Spellbound. Though I appreciated Anjali’s commentary on her relationship with her parents and complicated nostalgia/disdain for her past and background, her general attitude was so pretentious I couldn’t make myself care about her narrative. I’m not sure where Bishakh’s self-insert ends and Anjali as fiction begins, but Anjali reads as incredibly out of touch. I hesitate to describe her as a spoiled rich girl, but her interactions with “the middle class throng” are so halti I wasn’t impressed by Spellbound. Though I appreciated Anjali’s commentary on her relationship with her parents and complicated nostalgia/disdain for her past and background, her general attitude was so pretentious I couldn’t make myself care about her narrative. I’m not sure where Bishakh’s self-insert ends and Anjali as fiction begins, but Anjali reads as incredibly out of touch. I hesitate to describe her as a spoiled rich girl, but her interactions with “the middle class throng” are so haltingly uncomfortable that I couldn’t relate to the character at all. I could have done without most of the ‘present’ scenes, to be quite honest. I got really sick of reading about her eating another meal of lentils with her cat. I get it, she’s playing impoverished artist. Blah. The art is gorgeous; it’s an incredibly beautiful book that could have had a great message about becoming yourself, pushing beyond social, economic, and cultural expectations to discover personal contentedness... but Som fell just a little short. (And the font is god-awful! What’s with the spiky, pseudo-handwritten scrawl? It’s far too difficult to read.)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul Decker

    *I received this book as an eARC from Street Noise Books via Edelweiss. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.* This graphic novel memoir is excellent. This book is part journal, part memoir, part fictionalized retelling. The framing tools used are done so well. The storytelling gets super meta in such an endearing and personal way. The pages are heavy on the text, but not in a bad way. This isn't a fast read. The stories can be disjoi *I received this book as an eARC from Street Noise Books via Edelweiss. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.* This graphic novel memoir is excellent. This book is part journal, part memoir, part fictionalized retelling. The framing tools used are done so well. The storytelling gets super meta in such an endearing and personal way. The pages are heavy on the text, but not in a bad way. This isn't a fast read. The stories can be disjointed, but it follows a natural conversational flow. I give this book a 5/5. I have never read a comic like this. I love the story. And the way there are multiple levels to the storytelling.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael Norwitz

    A memoir of the author as she negotiates some life-changing transitions ... from architect to comic creator, as well as being transgender. I appreciated the attention to her native Bengali cultural background, and the comic is proficiently done. I think someone interested in comics from a trans author, or from one of Indian background, will certainly enjoy it. Unfortunately, while the issues facing the author are certainly relatable, there aren't a great deal of insights offered beyond the surfa A memoir of the author as she negotiates some life-changing transitions ... from architect to comic creator, as well as being transgender. I appreciated the attention to her native Bengali cultural background, and the comic is proficiently done. I think someone interested in comics from a trans author, or from one of Indian background, will certainly enjoy it. Unfortunately, while the issues facing the author are certainly relatable, there aren't a great deal of insights offered beyond the surface ones, and the graphic presentation rarely strays from the competent. Some of her other books sound more adventurous, and I might enjoy those more.

  15. 4 out of 5

    James

    Readers should be prepared to (want to) read this in a single go. I just read Apsara Engine, so in a way this felt like reading a making-of book about that, in addition to being a very readable memoir. Sometimes, the book could be difficult to follow as it switched from past to present. I found myself a bit envious of the author's ability to create an affirming alternative version of life. I very much wish that I could create something like that for myself. Overall, worth reading for the family sto Readers should be prepared to (want to) read this in a single go. I just read Apsara Engine, so in a way this felt like reading a making-of book about that, in addition to being a very readable memoir. Sometimes, the book could be difficult to follow as it switched from past to present. I found myself a bit envious of the author's ability to create an affirming alternative version of life. I very much wish that I could create something like that for myself. Overall, worth reading for the family stories, food/culture, and uniqueness (nothing like it). Recipes at the back.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mariah Goode

    Meh. Based on the premise (trans memoir told through an alter-ego of sorts) I was very interested until I started actually reading it; had to force myself to finish it. (Which wasn't too hard, as it went fairly quickly, although not as quickly as a graphic novel would normally - there is way too much text in this, which is one of my complaints.) In addition to having way too much text, there are frequent grammar errors or awkward wording, and the layout (reading order) of the panels is sometimes Meh. Based on the premise (trans memoir told through an alter-ego of sorts) I was very interested until I started actually reading it; had to force myself to finish it. (Which wasn't too hard, as it went fairly quickly, although not as quickly as a graphic novel would normally - there is way too much text in this, which is one of my complaints.) In addition to having way too much text, there are frequent grammar errors or awkward wording, and the layout (reading order) of the panels is sometimes unclear. I also didn't think the overall premise/structure worked well.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia Zamkinos

    There's a lot of waiting in this graphic memoir... Which I think made sense for the nature of the story? Read much more as a grown woman's memoir with a meta shell around it of shaping an externalized self and slowly realizing it is one's own self... With the characters' ages and all the wine references and the pacing, it tipped out of the range I would put in a HS classroom library. 3.5 for me but I could see it really shining a light of recognition for others. There's a lot of waiting in this graphic memoir... Which I think made sense for the nature of the story? Read much more as a grown woman's memoir with a meta shell around it of shaping an externalized self and slowly realizing it is one's own self... With the characters' ages and all the wine references and the pacing, it tipped out of the range I would put in a HS classroom library. 3.5 for me but I could see it really shining a light of recognition for others.

  18. 5 out of 5

    sleepytroll

    I appreciate the moments in this book where the author talks about challenges in their life, but I felt these moments were far and few between. It felt like there was a lot more pages about the authors desire to drink wine and express their judgment of other people. I also struggled to untangle the author's experience from their self-insert. All together, the art is nice, but the book overall fell short of my expectations. I appreciate the moments in this book where the author talks about challenges in their life, but I felt these moments were far and few between. It felt like there was a lot more pages about the authors desire to drink wine and express their judgment of other people. I also struggled to untangle the author's experience from their self-insert. All together, the art is nice, but the book overall fell short of my expectations.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Saturnq

    I hate to say this, given how much we know the author put into this book, but I found it boring as hell. The parts I did enjoy, and wish there was more of, was the references to 80s alternative/goth music, cooking recipes, and the struggles she faced when caring for her elderly/dying parents. Oh yes, and her cat. If Bishakh drew a recipe book, I'd pick that up in a flash. I hate to say this, given how much we know the author put into this book, but I found it boring as hell. The parts I did enjoy, and wish there was more of, was the references to 80s alternative/goth music, cooking recipes, and the struggles she faced when caring for her elderly/dying parents. Oh yes, and her cat. If Bishakh drew a recipe book, I'd pick that up in a flash.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mia E

    As the book went on the short stories seemed to flow better, but at the beginning it just felt like it was jumping from on to another randomly. I liked the art and it was overall a good story that got better as you read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brianna Sowinski

    I loved the creative telling of this story "that explores the concept of identity by inviting the reader to view the author moving through life as she would have us see her, that is, as she sees herself." What a fantastic way to illustrate her experience for the reader. I loved the creative telling of this story "that explores the concept of identity by inviting the reader to view the author moving through life as she would have us see her, that is, as she sees herself." What a fantastic way to illustrate her experience for the reader.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I really enjoyed this. Funny and touching, peppered with the occasional Star Trek reference and delicious-sounding food, Som is not just a great storyteller but also someone who seems just cool to talk to.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Four stars for subject, but two or less for execution. Too much energy is devoted to what was eaten and the vast quantity of wine drunk during an isolated writing period. What should've been a self-aware discussion of the author's trans identity was... kinda boring. Four stars for subject, but two or less for execution. Too much energy is devoted to what was eaten and the vast quantity of wine drunk during an isolated writing period. What should've been a self-aware discussion of the author's trans identity was... kinda boring.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andréa

    Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Addison

    I Loved this! I got it spontaneously at the library, and blew through the whole thing this afternoon. I liked the descriptions of the food (Idk, I like food) and the art was really nice.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shelley Carr

    Rating coming in December!

  27. 4 out of 5

    max

    Such a delightful read! A moving exploration of what it means to make your life on your own terms.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sue Hedin

    An emotional memoir that plays with gender identity and pursuing artistic passion.

  29. 5 out of 5

    M Aghazarian

    Lovely

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

    The concept of how the memoir was told was really enjoyable and I enjoyed hearing of all the food she cooked throughout. The font chosen made it tough to read at times, but would still recommend.

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