Not every family is perfect. We may have embarrassing parents, annoying relatives, clueless cousins, and the occasional black sheep, but they can also be as normal as you are. Plus, you can’t choose who you are related to—barring an abusive situation, you just need to learn to cope with them and love them in your own way.

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast relates how she had coped with the last years of her parents’ lives in her graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?. All her life, her parents have caused her stress and frustration, whether it be something insignificant like house cleaning or something life-threatening like their health and well-being. When they reached their nineties, the decline of their physical health meant that Chast had to deal with a lot more frustrations than she was used to, while also coming to terms with their mortality. But through her experiences, the reader comes to understand that even if your relationship with your parents is strained or complicated, you can still find the time to care for them and show how much they mean to you.

With her own wit and style, Chast has created a memorable memoir of familial struggles and love. She takes moments of her parents’ questionable behavior and adds comedic flair to them using exaggerated facial expressions and inner monologue; whether it be her father’s obsession with old bank books or her mother’s distrust of doctors. Her artistic style of simple cartoon drawings works well with these darkly humorous moments. The comic scenes she includes are used to convey her personal emotions as she speaks about her struggles with her parents. The narrative text is written in longhand and includes family photos, adding another personal touch. The writing and artwork work very well together, creating a funny yet heartwarming tale about family relations and preparations for death.

Chast’s personal reflection will appeal to those who enjoy memoirs of ordinary but relatable family life. Even those who are not familiar with the graphic novel format may want to give this book a try. With its deeply personal format and witty humor, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is a great addition for any library’s adult graphic novel collection.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
by Roz Chast
ISBN: 9781632861016
Bloomsbury, 2016

  • Gloria

    | She/Her Children's Librarian, Elmont Memorial Library

    Gloria is a full-time children’s librarian at the Elmont Memorial Library in Long Island, New York where she runs a monthly STEAM program, a graphic novel book club, and storytime for preschoolers. During her free time, she is found reading anything and everything from the classics, to poetry, to the newest best seller. Her other interests include writing, online games, exploring new areas in her home state, and spending time with friends, family, and colleagues. She has also written articles and reviews for the website Cosplay, Comics, and Geek Culture in Libraries and on her personal Goodreads page.

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