We Are on Our Own

Miriam Katin (Letting It Go), a background designer in the field of animation, made her graphic memoir debut in 2006 at the age of 63 with We Are on Our Own, based on her and her mother's survival journey during the Holocaust. That award-winning hardcover returns in a handsome paperback edition with reprocessed art that reveals sharper, crisper images and updated coloring. In 1944, Budapest is still "a city of lights, culture, and elegance." Here, Katin is young Lisa--as if she needed distance to tell her own story. She lives with her mother, Esther, and pup, Rexy, in a beautiful apartment and enjoys cafés and going to see Snow White with Aunt Éva. She doesn't quite remember her father, a Hungarian soldier battling the Germans. When Jewish residents are forced out of their homes, Esther and Lisa manage to disappear, staging their deaths after buying new identity papers. Their hellish experiences are affectingly mitigated by Lisa's simplifying point of view--good and bad, cold and hungry, scary and kindness, even life and death. Intertwined throughout is an interrogation of faith amid such horror.

Katin renders the terrifying past in vigorous strokes of black pencil--except for the threatening reds of the Nazi and Russian flags. In sharp contrast, Katin adds full color to panels depicting Lisa's postwar life decades later as an adult and mother, as if underscoring the miraculous escape from darkness. Nearly 20 years have elapsed since its debut, and yet Katin's powerful memoir remains necessary testimony against persistent antisemitism. --Terry Hong, BookDragon

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