Letting It Go by Miriam Katin
Writer & Artist: Miriam Katin
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Release Date: March 19, 2013
When my copy of Letting It Go arrived in the mail, the book looked (appropriately) like it had endured a war: its body bent in half, spine cracked, and edges brutalized. The cover art didn’t exactly allude to an uplifting experience either, featuring a woman releasing a balloon emblazoned with a swastika. But the pages inside revealed author Miriam Katin’s finely-executed colored pencils and a story about coming to terms with the weight of history, an experience that surprisingly manages to keep a light tone despite its basis in genocide. It’s a careful balance illustrated by the contrast between cover and interior (or by hap, the difference between the state of my copy and the delicacy of what it contained); what might seem heavy doesn’t have to be. You can let it go.
A sequel of sorts to Katin’s first book, We Are on Our Own, which captured her childhood hiding from Nazis in Hungary, Letting It Go shows its author dealing with her American son’s decision to move to Germany, a land she still sees as cursed. Katin’s style is gentle without feeling overly sentimental, characterized by loose panels and soft, unbounded edges, even when her images are laid into grids. Her depiction of herself as a mild hysteric thankfully doesn’t stray into Cathy territory. You’ve gone far beyond “Ack! Chocolate!” when you confess a loss of bowel control as a psychosomatic expression of suppressed fear. The narrative falls a bit on the loose side, remembering two separate trips from the United States to Berlin (one to visit her son; one to attend an art opening a few months later), but autobiographical works that stick closely to the truth frequently have this drawback.
Overall, the book is expressive, musical, and thoroughly original. Katin manages to find something new in the well-ploughed fields of Holocaust and post-Holocaust literature by sticking to a story invested in revelation, not cliché.