Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston
Emi seems set to have a lame-sauce summer. After she's fired from her minimum wage-slave job, her mum gets her a job babysitting a drooly little boy. Awesome, right? But then she gets a flyer, an invite to the Freak Show, a guerilla performance art show in a seedy warehouse and Emi begins to transform herself from babysitter to Emiko Superstar, spoken word artist and rad chica.
Of course, like all good stories, the transformation from zero to hero isn't smooth or complete or instantaneous. Emi is still a teenager negotiating the twists and turns of building an identity. And, as I have learned, identity is a shifty designation. For example, I just got my drivers license renewed and will now be purple haired until my 40th birthday. So yeah.
I became interested in this graphic novel when I got to see some original art at the Boise Art Museum last year. The BAM curated a great exhibit on the art of the graphic novel. I have more than a passing interest in the form as my friend, Mrs. The Fist, and I are hoping to put a GN together. I read Skim, Mariko's collaboration with her cousin Jillian, which is an excellent GN, although I have to admit that the story line, about a teen's romantic relationship/infatuation with a teacher, made me uncomfortable. Having been a teacher, I find it really difficult to distance myself from stories like this or stories where kids get hurt/killed (like The Hunger Games, which I have not read and do not plan to read) and to look at the stories as art. Which is not to say that these stories shouldn't be told. I just find them difficult to read. But anyway, I really liked Emi's story and I really like books with non-white protags. I've been working on a critical theory paper that looks at Firefly, and one of the things that I've noticed that won't necessarily make it into the paper (I've got to FOCUS, darn it!) is just how white and male that show is. It's subtle, and it's easy to overlook because the main cast is pretty diverse, but the overall series stabilizes a heteronormative matrix. But enough of that for today. Do check out Emiko Superstar. It's pretty rad.