Also by this author: The Truth Commission
Published by Penguin on April 14th 2015
Genres: Family, Girls & Women, Humorous Stories, Siblings, Young Adult
Open secrets are the heart of gossip -- the obvious things that no one is brave or tactless enough to ask. Except for Normandy Pale and her friends. They are juniors at a high school for artistsl, and have no fear. They are the Truth Commission. Then, one of their truth targets says to Normandy: “If you want to know about the truth, you might want to look a little closer to home.” This dryly funny, knife-sharp novel, written as "narrative nonfiction" by Normandy herself, features footnotes, illustrations and a combination mystery/love story that will capture readers from the frst page.From the Hardcover edition.
I am SO PUMPED to have Susan Juby, author of THE TRUTH COMMISSION here on Good Books & Good Wine today. If you haven’t read my review of THE TRUTH COMMISSION yet, please check it out and you can see why I am so excited to be hosting Susan Juby today. Her guest post is on the research that went into the character of Keira, a famous graphic novelist who is kind of a mean person and older sister to the main character of THE TRUTH COMMISSION – Normandy.
The idea to make Keira a semi-autobiographical graphic novelist came to me as I was considering what might the most invasive form of representation for a family member. Having a writer take all of your personal failures and write about them would be bad enough. Having a documentarian film your troubles would also be terrible. But what if someone wrote about your worst moments and also drew you in such a way that you actually appeared worse than you are?
I thought that being the subject of a talented writer-illustrator would be either immensely flattering or horrifying, depending on how they handled your stories and your image. And as readers of The Truth Commission learn, Keira is merciless in how she portrays her family.
To prepare to write the book, I read a lot of autobiographical graphic novels and read about various artists’ processes. My colleague, Marni Stanley, is a serious student and fan of graphic novels and she gave me access to her vast library.
Luckily, the authors of these books were the opposite of Keira. They handled the material sensitively and thoughtfully. Of course, Keira says that she’s writing fantasy and that her sister is being unsophisticated or ridiculous when she point out that the characters look like misshapen versions of the Pale family.
A (very) few of the most interesting autobiographical graphic novels I read were Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. This graphic memoir is about Bechdel’s family, particularly her father, and it’s funny and unflinching. I was fascinated by Bechdel’s painstaking process. I also found intriguing the idea that her parents were most real to her in “fictional terms” as well as the notion that her “cool aesthetic distance itself does more to convey the Arctic climate” of her family than any literary allusion or comparison. It seems to me that all writers and artists must develop some distance from their subjects. Just how chilly and distant that artistic remove can get was part of what inspired The Truth Commission. Equally, an artist who uses personal material is dependent on the people around her or him, even if they profess detachment.
A few other titles I spent a lot of time thinking about were Essex County by Jeff Lemire, The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming and Paying for It by Chester Brown. They’re all very different, but raise important points about how artists and writers convey relationships.
When I wrote about Keira’s career, I wanted to emphasize the idea that she’s a prodigy. Her parents feel they must nurture her talent and they begin to live vicariously through her success. That dynamic makes it hard for them to put up any boundaries for themselves or Normandy. The Truth Commission is a comedy, but there are aspects of it that veer close to horror thanks to Keira and her pitiless portrayals.
Thanks for featuring The Truth Commission on Good Books and Wine!