A memoir of mothers and daughters, traced through four generations, from Paris to New York and back again.
More than Nadja Spiegelman’s famous father, Maus creator Art Spiegelman, and more than most mothers, hers—French-born New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly—exerted a force over reality that was both dazzling and daunting. As Nadja’s body changed and ‘began to whisper to the adults around me in a language I did not understand’, their relationship grew tense. Unwittingly, they were replaying a drama from her mother’s past. The weight of the difficult stories Françoise told her daughter shifted the balance between them. Nadja’s grandmother’s memories then contradicted her mother’s at nearly every turn, but beneath them lay a difficult history of her own.
Nadja emerged with a deeper understanding of how each generation reshapes the past and how sometimes those who love us best hurt us most. Readers will recognise themselves and their families in this moving, heartbreaking memoir.
Nadja Spiegelman has written three graphic novels for children. She grew up in New York City and now divides her time between Paris and Brooklyn.
‘In this mesmerising book, Nadja Spiegelman sets out to understand the women in her family—her French mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, who expected little from men, wouldn’t dare ask intimate questions of their elders, and were more preoccupied with war than introspection. Spiegelman’s prose is witty, tender, assured and poetic, and her investigation progresses like memory itself, a realm in which nothing quite hangs together but everything makes sense. The unexpected symmetries between the generations, as well as the inevitable insults and pains, make this artful memoir feel like the story of every family.’ Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be?
‘Nadja Spiegelman has written a passionate, penetrating, swiftly paced memoir about her mother, her grandmother, and herself. In sharp contrast to many writers working in the genre, who naively assume they are in possession of the definitive, true version of their stories, Spiegelman nimbly interrogates the workings of memory itself—its shifting shape and unreliability, its fictional character. I am proud to play a bit part in this complex love story about three generations of women and what each of them remembers.’ Siri Hustvedt, author of The Blazing World
‘Spiegelman’s narrative complicates, blurs, and questions the line between the self and the other—that basic fault-line of all autobiographical writing—as perhaps only a story about mothers can.’ Elif Batuman, author of The Possessed
With two prominent intellectual parents (cartoonist Art Spiegelman, author of Maus, and Fran oise Mouly, New Yorker art editor, graphic novel publisher, and recipient of numerous artistic awards), Spiegelman must grapple with her legacy but finds the more challenging endeavor to be reconciling the barrier between her mother and herself. She traces her life in contrast to her mother to see the lines of difference, but she also comes to learn the ways in which they are more alike than she imagined. In the audio edition, Spiegelman wavers in her reading. At times, her delivery drones on without much inflection and energy. In other sections, and particularly those with dialogue, her voice becomes lively with emphasis and emotion. Her most impressive feat in narrating comes with her seamless shifts into French accents and even French itself as she moves through conversations in her mother's native tongue. A Riverhead hardcover.