Edmund White's A Boy's Own Story: The Graphic Novel

Edmund White (A Saint from Texas), arguably the godfather of gay literature, has published dozens of lauded titles over the last half-century. This adaptation transforms his autobiographical novel A Boy's Own Story (1982) into an impressive, dazzling graphic novel. The text, condensed by literary critic Brian Alessandro and White's longtime partner, Michael Carroll, is limited to speech-bubble conversations with few prose sentences on the page. The majority of the storytelling happens through gorgeously illustrated panels created by visual artist Igor Karash.

Karash immediately commands the adaptation with textless spreads. The opening double pages feature a brick building marked the Renaissance Inn, not far from sailboats and piers. Peeking out from a window below--perhaps unsure of all the life going on around him--is a young face, to be revealed in close-up two spreads later, opposite the title page, suggesting this is the titular boy. With period clothing and the vintage car, Karash affectingly dates the 1950s of White's teen years. The boy's story moves through pivotal relationships with a philandering father, his discarded mother, his savvy older sister, younger friends, older men. The color palette is predominantly moody and muted, suggesting memories have faded save for the most vibrant details (a red dress) and colorful scenes (the brightest skies). Karash inserts occasional images of White's older self, witnessing his teenage experiences--a brilliant literal visualization of remembrances of things past.

"Now that this beautiful graphic novel version of the original is available," White writes in his preface, "I'm hoping that it will reach yet another whole audience." --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

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