Graphic Novel Reporter | John Hogan | April 28, 2013
Miriam Katin interview with Graphic Novel Reporter
With her intensely personal memoir Letting It Go, Miriam Katin bares her soul and learns how to make peace with the past. As a survivor of the Holocaust, Katin has an avalance of emotions when she learns her son is going to settle in Berlin. Going to visit him there is one way of beginning the process of letting those emotions go. We talked to Katin about the experience of writing this book.
Letting It Go had a huge potential to be sad or morose, and yet you’ve enlivened it with a great deal of humor and spirit. Did it feel sad to write? Or was it, like the book itself, ultimately very happy? It seems, in a profound way that is to your credit, like a very uplifting and positive book.
It started with anger and pain. That's why I needed to "process" the book to work it out. So I used a number of super annoying things in my life. But then, I had trouble putting it in some sort of order to create a readable work. So actually, looking around me I see the things that I love, the river, the sky, the city and it helped me to get things in order to pace the story. On the humor side, it is the way I am; wherever I come into a situation I start to see how funny things are. I did hope that people will put down the book laughing. It seems to work.
At the same time, Letting It Go is incredibly personal and often intensely so. Was it difficult to share so much of yourself?
Somehow, when I got into it, no. I felt that the truly intimate details, embarrassing ones give the story the real strength.
How long did you spend working on the book?
Putting pencil to paper two years.
The art is beautiful. Can you talk a little about your artistic style—how you evoke the colors and shade the drawings so elaborately?
I did not have a "style" until in 2000, when I did my first comic (for Monkeysuit, Vol. 2). It just grew out of drawing that first story. I thought I would sketch and then copy with ink but I fell in love with the pencil drawings, the black to gray, and just went on from there even into color. Lorenzo Mattotti's magnificent coloring gave me true inspiration. Talk about elaborate! (Look up his work.)
What does your son, Ilan, think of the book?
Sort of mystified by it, but he, after all, understands the irony of the situation. His girlfriend, Tinet, who is a prominent Swedish comic artist said, "We are now comic book heroes," and my son wrote, "And I bemused myself with the idea that people will show up dressed up as Tinet and I at comic conventions." I love their humor.
Have you been back to Berlin since the visit depicted in the book?
Oh, yes, we were renting an apartment in Berlin so we can spend more time with Ilan. This, for me is bringing that city down to sort of an everyday thing, ordinary day to day, life here, life there. After all, what is my choice?
Are you working on a new book? Any details you can share?
There is a pile of stuff growing on my table, floor, shelves, but there are just impressions.
What was the most difficult part of truly letting it all go? Do you feel, now, that you really have let it go?
No letting go, but dealing with it by, as I said, coming to terms with my reality.
“Vergangenheitsbewältigung,” as the Germans say.