Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Displacement: A Travelogue
Written by: Lucy Knisley
Paperback: 161 pages
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Language: English
February 2015
Genre: Travelogue/Memoir/Graphic Novel

In her graphic memoirs, New York Times-best selling cartoonist Lucy Knisley paints a warts-and-all portrait of contemporary, twentysomething womanhood, like writer Lena Dunham (Girls). In the next installment of her graphic travelogue series, Displacement, Knisley volunteers to watch over her ailing grandparents on a cruise. (The book s watercolors evoke the ocean that surrounds them.) In a book that is part graphic memoir, part travelogue, and part family history, Knisley not only tries to connect with her grandparents, but to reconcile their younger and older selves. She is aided in her quest by her grandfather s WWII memoir, which is excerpted. Readers will identify with Knisley s frustration, her fears, her compassion, and her attempts to come to terms with mortality, as she copes with the stress of travel complicated by her grandparents frailty.


“Whenever I travel through crowded places, I'm struck by how human beings en masse are so incredibly hideous, while individual humans can be so heartbreakingly beautiful. Congregated: ugly, ubiquitous, and repellent. Individually: nuanced, intricate, beautiful, and unknowable. Fragile, separate, singular...fascinating. This just kills me.”

Lucy Knisley is one of my favorite graphic novelists ever since I read French Milk when it first came out. In fact because I loved that book so much I started picking up comics again. I was sad that I did not get the chance to speak to her last year at Emerald City Comic Con due to my travel arrangements, but Kristin did get Displacement signed by her. It just took me a while to read it.

Lately I have felt old. The icons from my childhood are passing on (David Bowie & Alan Rickman most recently). My parents are also getting older, just like me and the Rogue. California has made me feel my age in ways that I never expected. Maybe it is a combination of everything, but I have been more aware of my mortality move than ever before. It weirds me out.

Unfortunately, I lost most of my grandparents when I was in my twenties all in the span of about 9 months and I have never really been close to my surviving Grandpa. And yet this was a story I could relate to in other ways, deeply personal ways. I cannot imagine taking my 90 year old grandparents by myself on a cruise (It would have been a hoot in any case if you knew my Granny). And yet that is exactly what Lucy did. She was reeling from a breakup and set out on adventures. This was one of them. She also brought along her grandfather’s memoir about his time in the war.

Allen and Phyllis, Lucy’s Grands, are 93 and 90. They did not travel a lot when they were younger, but have decided to go on a cruise with a group from their assisted living home. Neither of them are really capable of handling daily living by themselves, so Lucy volunteers to be their caregiver on the week long cruise. She was not sure what to expect. She knew it would be a story, but what kind? Comedy gold? A bonding trip with her grands? A frustration fest? A chance to have Caribbean Adventures? A depressing insight into her Grands’ deteriorating health? Maybe all of the above? Yes perhaps it was all of the above. Plus Lucy weaves in excerpts from her grandfather’s memoir along with memories of life with her grands when she was younger. Sure we get the reflections on mortality, but more as well.

Things I liked: Lucy is insanely talented…and honest. I think that is what I love about her. I am a voyeur through her works of art and storytelling. I learned a lot from this glimpse into Lucy’s life. I also learned that cruises may not be for me even though the Rogue really wants to go on one next year. I learned that it is hard being a caregiver, even if we all knew that already. It’s even harder to see the mortality of those you love. We want our family to be immortal. Its sobering when we realize that they are not. Lucy goes through a ton of emotions on that cruise: fear, sadness, frustration, anger, joy, laughter, and nostalgia. Quite the gambit.

I also wasn’t as close to my grandparents as I wish I could have been when I was older. I wish I could have learned more about their lives before they became grandparents. I wish I could have added even more memories to the ones I already have. This book made me miss them. It also made me think I should do more traveling with my own parents. Now if only we could afford to do it. *smile*

I think the thing I loved the most about this book though were the excerpts from her grandfather’s war memoir as an Air Force pilot. As an Air Force brat with my own father in the Air Force and then Guard growing up I felt a kinship to these stories. Even if they did take place in World War II. It is also a glimpse into who her grandfather was when he was younger. When it is mixed with his current state, it just left me thinking.

This book, as I said, invoked a lot in me. Including guilt. While Lucy may not adventure into completely new territory she is honest with this. She feels the repulsion at age and frailty, is frustrated by small things her grands do because of the far that she might be like that someday. But also she is aggravated at her other family members who did not go on the cruise, at the passerbys who shoot dirty looks at her grandfather who has wet himself, or the organizers of the cruise who seem to spend very little time caring for the group (they were at an assisted living home people). Above it all she loves them so deeply and that is achingly apparent in Displacement. I think in writing this book she reconciled quite a few things and I am happy that I went on that journey with her.

Things I didn’t like so much: Something, I still cannot seem to put it into words, made me not fall absolutely in love with this. And yet I have very little faults with it. Perhaps because it stirred so many emotions in me. Perhaps because I wanted more. At times this felt safe. Almost too safe. I guess I just wanted more and I know that she can do more. Such a slight quibble though. I am still placing it on the shelf along with her other books.

Buy or Borrow: Buy.

Part of: Standalone

Also Recommended: Please try Lucy’s other books French Milk, Relish, and An Age of License. Other great graphic novels are American Elf by James Kochalka, Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory, and The Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa

3.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

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