This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics
I decidedly do not know Lucy Knisley. There was that one time, when I was five years into book blogging, and I emailed to see if she would let me interview her after I devoured French Milk. She said yes, and she even illustrated the answers to my questions. That counts, right? Eternal BFFism to follow.
Alas, we’re not besties, but even before I got to Q&A with her, I was devoted to Knisley’s work. There are a handful of comics creators I will shout from the rooftops, fangirl over, who make me flail, and for whom I will pre-order. Knisley is right at the tippy top of this scandalous fan behavior, and I thought I’d share my love with the world.
What is it about Lucy Knisley that provokes such fangirlism? A combination of things, really. First and foremost, she is a journaler, a process I find fascinating. By letting the reader exist within a collection of her memories and adventures, it’s easy to feel like we know her, and to know her is to love her. Her books are mostly illustrated journals, and they exist somewhere in the realm of memoir, travelogue, and cookbook. I also have a soft spot for all of these topics, and her artwork, while rounded and cute (a complete compliment), is also heartfelt and pensive. Everything she publishes is a joy to read.
Where to start? Let’s dive in…
Relish is my hands-down favorite. It’s a memoir about growing up with a chef/caterer mother and a gourmand father. While Knisley is attuned to the finer points of the culinary life, she’s not above a greasy cheeseburger. She loves food in all its various forms, and while the food will make your mouth water, it’s absolutely fabulous to get a glimpse into Knisley’s childhood from chasing chickens (or being chased by chickens), making cookies, traveling, and spending time with her family. It’s a sensitive collection of stories all wrapped up in beautiful artwork that seems to personify Knisley’s warm, quirky personality perfectly.
Did I mention the recipes? There are recipes–gorgeous spreads at the end of each chapter.
Moving further into Knisley’s oeuvre…
Displacement is a graphic travelogue published earlier this year. Knisley agrees to escort her aging grandparents on a Caribbean cruise, probably their last. From incontinence to motion sickness and dementia, her grandparents put her through the ringer, but she managers to keep her cool (most of the time), while reading her grandfather’s World War II memoir along the way. The juxtaposition of his experiences as a young man to his struggles as a senior citizen definitely tug at the heart strings. Knisley learns that she has untapped levels of both patience and adoration for the two of them, no matter how trying the trip.
French Milk, Knisley’s first big hit, is still something special. She recalls six weeks spent in France with her mother. While Knisley is staring down adulthood, her mom is turning 50, and these two ladies have some common ground to find. From trips to museums and plenty of afternoons spent in boulangeries, Knisley makes a point to soak up the Parisian atmosphere and try to figure herself out. It’s a true coming of age story wrapped up in a witty, beautifully-illustrated package. To date, French Milk is the only one of Knisley’s books that contains no color, giving it an little bit of an additional indie, new artist feel.
Lucy Knisley is on track to be one of the most prolific cartoonists around. She has yet another travelogue, An Age of License, currently available and no less than two slated for publication in the near’ish future. Something New chronicles her engagement and wedding planning adventure, while New Kid is a rumination on high school and surviving four different schools in four years.
If you’re a sucker for graphic memoir, travel, food, and charming adventures, you simply can’t ignore Lucy Knisley, a supremely talented girl next door.
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