Storytelling through the Eyes of a Child

Why Graphic Novels Work

Fun HomeI just finished reading Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic— a graphic memoir written by Alison Bechdel. An insightful fast-read, Fun Home follows a young girl as she dodges the pitfalls of her dysfunctional family (is there any other kind?) while navigating through the currents of her sexual awakenings. This award-winning graphic novel has also been adapted into a Broadway musical, and will resonate with anyone who didn’t grow up in a “normal” family.

Years earlier, I had the pleasure of reading Stitches by David Small—another graphic memoir dealing with family dysfunction. Graphic novels are an ideal vessel for delivering dark humor as told through the eyes of a child. The innocent design mixed with dark subject matter works in delivering a unique and appropriate mode of storytelling.

SignatureAs I look at my own novel, Chasing Crazy, still hiding on my computer, ready for its entry into the literary world, I wonder, what if I made Chasing Crazy a graphic novel?

What if…

 

Everyday Sexism

Actress, Ashley Judd recently spoke of a situation she encountered while going through security in an airport. Singled out by a male employee with an uncomfortable greeting of, “Hey Sweetheart,” Judd replied to the employee that she was not his sweetheart, but instead was a paying customer. Undeterred, the employee went on to make inappropriate comments while touching her as she proceeded through security.

Taylor Swift was also involved in a harassment situation where a popular DJ thought nothing of grabbing her ass as the two of them posed for a promotional shoot. Being a self-assured woman, and understanding that young women across the world look up to her, she filed a lawsuit for $1, took the man to court for sexual harassment, and won. She needs to be applauded for her actions.

You may be rolling her eyes at these two scenarios thinking that these two women should lighten up, but while both instances aren’t earth-shattering, they are perfect examples of what Judd calls Everyday Sexism—sometimes so subtle that we brush it off as harmless and even expected from an older generation or men in general. It is everywhere, with women being just as guilty of the same bias, and more likely to apply sexist labels to themselves in a self-deprecating manor.

A reminder of past sexism stands today along South Westnedge in Kalamazoo, where a longstanding restaurant still touts Businessmen’s Luncheons on their outdoor signage—a throwback to the seventies when men routinely conducted business deals over a 3-martini lunch. Sadly, the owners apparently have no problem with the message it continues to send to women and girls today

Hooters 1Further south, down the same street, stands a national restaurant that shamelessly showcases sexism hidden behind the eyes of a cartoon owl. How sad is it for a so-called family dining establishment to subject their wait staff to ogling patrons who pay for this special view with the purchase of hot wings. Sadder still, is that the people of Kalamazoo continue to frequent this restaurant, not bothered by the fact that the young woman they’re checking out is someone’s daughter.

A friend of mine has learned to tackle Everyday Sexism head-on with gusto in the instance of standing her ground, as she discovered that women are more apt to step aside when men are coming toward them on a sidewalk. “This part of the sidewalk is mine,” she explains. If a group of people are walking toward me on the sidewalk, it’s their job to move over so that they’re leaving at least a little space so that I don’t have to step aside. I’ve learned to lower my shoulder and stand my ground.” More than once she has bumped into a surprised man who assumed that she was going to move aside. “It’s a fun game of mine, but it is sad that it’s a game at all,” she says.

Here’s a thought… As we encounter Everyday Sexism on the street with strangers, with our co-workers, and even our friends, let’s remind them that it’s not OK. We owe it to ourselves.

Heidi McCrary / Author

Ypsilanti Mental Institution Setting for Dark Comedy Starring Richard Gere

see-archived-images-of-ypsilanti-state-hospital-76625d16757d2309THREE CHRISTS OF YPSILANTI, a movie starring Richard Gere, is currently premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival. In case you caught that last word in the movie’s title, you are correct in assuming that it is in reference to the city in Michigan which is located southeast of Ann Arbor, and home of Eastern Michigan University.

Based on a true story, and adapted from a book written by Milton Rokeach, the movie is set in the 60’s, and tells the story of a doctor who is treating three schizophrenic patients in the Ypsilanti State Hospital, each of whom believes he is Jesus Christ.

Two things…

christHow did I not hear about Richard Gere starring in a movie based on a true story that took place in Ypsilanti?! And how did I miss the book? While the movie is currently playing in Toronto, I certainly hope we’ll be able to see it closer to home. How about it, Waterfront Film Festival, or new theatre opening soon in Downtown Kalamazoo? Also starring Peter Dinklage and Julianna Margulies, THREE CHRISTS OF YPSILANTI should, if nothing else, deliver with great acting.

But more incredible, how in the world is it that I have never heard about the Ypsilanti State Hospital? The mental institution opened in 1931 and was designed for care of the insane and stayed open until 1991. The property was later demolished in 2008. As a frequent visitor to mental institutions, I’m surprised that I never spent time in the lobby of the Ypsilanti State Hospital, and more surprised that my mother wasn’t a guest at this fine establishment.

THREE CHRISTS OF YPSILANTI is described as an American drama / dark comedy… sounds right to me.

MLive article on the movie, along with a photo gallery of the Ypsilanti State Hospital can be found at http://bit.ly/2xbPHkI

 

The Glass Castle Review

The_Glass_Castle_(film).pngAnd what the movie got wrong.

When I look at the Jackson Pollock painting, Autumn Rythm, I see a frantic chorus of dancing energy. Some fans of his work see a darker tone in the brushstrokes, while others call B.S., seeing his creative effort as gimmicky and without merit. No one viewpoint is right or wrong. It’s all in how you look at it, and what you draw from it.

The same can be said for the film adaptation of The Glass Castle. This bestselling novel by Jeanette Walls served as a popular read for many book clubs, and resonated with many readers who grew up in dysfunctional families. Film adaptations of popular books are often met with mixed reviews. While a book can delve deep into a story, the movie version must choose between what is essential and what elements can be left out without affecting the essence of the story.

In Walls’ memoir, she takes readers on a crazy ride that was her childhood. Along the way, we get to meet and understand her parents—a father who is an alcoholic and a mother suffering from mental illness. They both are fighting their individual demons, leaving the children to raise themselves. It can be safely said that neither should have had children, and together they make a toxic pair.

However, in the film adaptation, the decision was made to make Walls’ mother a secondary character—focusing instead on Jeannette and her rocky relationship with her father, portrayed in the film by Woody Harrelson who superbly expresses the angst of a man fighting his addiction.

What did the film get wrong? By erasing the mother’s struggle with mental illness, Naomi Watts as Jeannette’s mother, Rose Mary, is left portraying a character that lacks the depth and bite found in the novel, leaving a character that transcends into little more than wallpaper. It’s time for mental illness to be a front-burner story, and the film adaptation of the memoir misses on this point.

Like a Jackson Pollock painting, The Glass Castle movie will probably generate applause from some and the shaking of heads from others.

60 Second Movie Review

Heidi McCrary

 

 

The Woman at 72 Derry Lane… A 60-Second Book Review

The woman at 72 Derry LaneFrom Gone Girl to Orphan Train, the telling of stories through dual narrative provides readers with a strong sense of immersion from multiple viewpoints—allowing the author to delve deeper into the lives of the book’s protagonists. Written by Carmel Harrington, The Woman at 72 Derry Lane takes readers on a rollercoaster ride as multiple stories follow a path of destruction, heartache and the search for liberation from past tragedies and the resulting hardships.

Harrington, an author from Ireland, combines sharp writing with dialogue and character development that moves the story along at a rapid page-turning pace…

“I saw people running by the restaurant window. I heard staff screaming at each other. Then the manager of the hotel started shouting ‘Run!’ in all different languages. I recognised French and Italian, at least, as well as English, of course. The stupidest thing, though, I wanted to pay my bill.”

“How very English of you,” Maria remarked.

The Woman at 72 Derry Lane delivers on all counts—with characters that you wish were in your own circle of friends, and a story of love and family that can come from where you least expect.

60-Second Book Review

Heidi McCrary

My Disdain of the Em Dash

typingAs a writer I have an uncomfortable relationship with punctuation, and the fight comes from every direction. At work, my business partner is not amused by my cavalier attitude towards the comma and ellipses. And my editor threatened to divorce me more than once over my insistence on using the common hyphen over the unattractive em dash—a punctuation so unpopular that it doesn’t even warrant its own key on the keyboard. Yet I use it excessively. 

And don’t get me started on the semicolon. When do you use that?! And am I allowed to even use the ?! symbols together? I could go on but instead I’ll leave you with the beautiful ellipses… (Again, which I’m using incorrectly)

Heidi McCrary / Rogue Writer