Guest Post By Irene Velentzas
Despite the title of her newest book, Boundless, Canadian-American cartoonist, Jillian Tamaki, suggests “none of us are completely ‘unbound’” from the constraints of our society.
Tamaki, who is known for highlighting themes of human interfacing with technology, and the unknown asks, “What else is there?”
She suggests “the environment” and notes that “themes of identity, transformation, and human relationships have always been present in my work.”
One of Boundless’ short comics “Half-Life” explores these themes. The main character, Helen, starts her transformation one day when she realizes her shoes feel a little bit loose. At first, her change is imperceptible, the shrinking is just a bit of weight loss.
As Helen continues shrinking, her relationships to her family and her world are re-negotiated. No longer a “big sister” or an able-bodied worker, Helen also notices that “objects start rejecting [her].” Helen continually adapts to her changing environmental relationships, even taking up painting to engage with her world, until she can no longer hold a brush.
At the microscopic level, Helen engages most with her world, completely free from all restrictions and amazed to “move so quickly. To cover such distance so effortlessly” with an air current.
As she lands, she feels herself integrate with the consciousness of another being. “Daily life and things we might even consider trash, seem hugely important, political, or even microcosms for very big things,” Tamaki suggests.“A lot of the stories in Boundless are about how people are affected by their environment, a community, an idea.”
Tamaki’s solo and collaborative work with Mariko Tamaki is a prime example of how people are affected by ideas. Their collaborative book This One Summer, was the number one most challenged book of last year. Tamaki insists that “we certainly did not set out to be controversial but once the book started taking, shape we realized some people would probably take issue with some of the stuff in [t]here.”
However, coming into adulthood is controversial at times, and This One Summer is “about depicting a time when you’re being exposed to the adult world and it’s a little bit shocking and scary.”
She also frames the motives behind the book’s challenge, explaining that “most of the books on the most-challenged list were there because they had ‘LGBTQ characters,’ so it’s really quite sobering to consider what it must be like to be an actual queer person in some of those jurisdictions.”
Despite some of the controversy, Tamaki feels pretty content with the scope of her current projects, indicating her collaborations with Mariko are nice because she gets to confer with someone throughout the process.
She admits that working on her own is “a lot more difficult” even though “it’s nice to just chop and edit and shape it to your own liking.” Her upcoming projects include a picture book coming out in the spring called They Say Blue, which she explains is “about nature and colours and the perception thereof.”
Jillian Tamaki will be visiting St. John’s to speak at Innovation Hall in the Bruneau Centre on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 8 p.m. in a free Visiting Writer’s Series sponsored by MUN’s Department of English. While she’s here she also hopes to visit The Rooms and wander up and down the hills, doing some environmental interfacing of her own.