French Milk by Lucy Knisley

French Milk
Lucy Knisley
Touchstone 2008

This graphic novel is a kind of visual diary of young Chicago resident Knisley’s month-long trip to Paris with her mother in 2007. Her clean brush drawings are interspersed with snapshots (mostly of her) from the trip. It’s described as a “moving, personal look at a mother-daughter relationship”, but her revelations are no more profound than those of anyone else who visits Europe. It would be fascinating to see her make the same trip after twenty (or even ten) years of life experience. I’d recommend it to any teenager about to travel overseas for the first time – personally, I’m too old and bitter to read her wide-eyed appreciation of French food and art without wanting to curse a mighty oath and dash the book upon the carpet. Published at 22? Bah!

I was ready to hate Knisley for being young and pretty and overprivileged, but then I visited her charming website. She shows how far you can get by being talented, taking advantage of the many opportunities that are available to you, and working really hard. So, fair enough.

She’s doing an MFA at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, which is the kind of institution that would be regarded in New Zealand as a swindle to attract education funding dollars. There’s no way non-cartoonists would even take its existence seriously, and actual cartoonists would resent the implication that you have to have some sort of formal qualification to be a cartoonist. Although we’d probably welcome the air of legitimacy this would confer. Although the only job you’d be qualified for would be teaching at the Center*.

* Self-perpetuation the raison d’être of academia? Where have I seen that before?
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