Graphic Novel Review: Talk To My Back by Yamada Murasaki

Talk To My Back by Yamada Murasaki. Translated and with an afterword by Ryan Holmberg. Drawn & Quarterly, 2022. 9781770465633.

This alt-manga was originally published in the early 1980s, and Holmberg’s essay at the back explains Murasaki’s place in the history of manga and more. But I’m recommending this book because it’s a good read, and once I started it I couldn’t put it down.

It’s about a Japanese housewife struggling with her role in her family, the demands of her kids, and the way she’s taken for granted. Her response to her loneliness and isolation is to at times struggle against it and at other times to just accept it. She ultimately decides what she wants, finds a part-time job, and forces her husband to take care of their kids and their home sometimes. While it’s fun to watch him “suffer” in those moments, I valued this more as a meditation on marriage; it made me reflect on how cultural expectations continue to shape my life and the ways my wife and I ignore them. The art is marvelous, too — most panels use minimal details to set the scene in a way I really admire — and the pace feels much more realistic than most true-to-life manga I’ve read.


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