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Memory Spaces

Visualizing Identity in Jewish Women's Graphic Narratives

Victoria Aarons

Jewish Studies, Women's Studies, Literary Criticism and Theory

Published: May 2023
ISBN: 9780814349144
Pages: 300 Size: 6 x 9
Illustrations: 30 bw illus.
Published: May 2023
ISBN: 9780814349151
Pages: 300 Size: 6 x 9
Illustrations: 30 bw illus.
Published: May 2023
ISBN: 9780814349168
Pages: 300 Size: EPUB
Illustrations: 30 bw illus.

An exploration of the work of Jewish women graphic novelists and the intricate Jewish identity is complicated by gender, memory, generation, and place—that is, the emotional, geographical, and psychological spaces that women inhabit. Victoria Aarons argues that Jewish women graphic novelists are preoccupied with embodied memory: the way the body materializes memory. This monograph investigates how memory manifests in the drawn shape of the body as an expression of the weight of personal and collective histories. Aarons explores Jewish identity, diaspora, mourning, memory, and witness in the works of Sarah Lightman, Liana Finck, Anya Ulinich, Leela Corman, and more.
Memory Spaces begins by framing this research within contemporary discourse and reflects upon the choice to explore Jewish women graphic novelists specifically. In the chapters that follow, Aarons relates the nuanced issues of memory, transmission of trauma, Jewish cultural identity, and the gendered self to a series of meaningful and noteworthy graphic novels. Aarons’s insight, close readings, and integration of contemporary scholarship are conveyed clearly and concisely, creating a work that both captivates readers and contributes to scholarly discourse in Jewish studies, women’s literature, memory studies, and identity.

Victoria Aarons is O.R. & Eva Distinguished Professor of Literature at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She is the author or editor of twelve books, including Holocaust Graphic Narratives, The Cambridge Companion to Saul Bellow, Third-Generation Holocaust Narratives, and The New Diaspora: The Changing Landscape of American Jewish Fiction (Wayne State University Press).

Focusing on six Jewish comics artists across borders, Victoria Aarons adroitly demonstrates how those storytellers variously negotiate memory and identity though their dexterous interplay of text and image. With original insights and writerly aplomb, Aarons has crafted a must-read contribution to the literature on contemporary women graphic novelists.

– Samantha Baskind, Distinguished Professor of Art History, Cleveland State University, and coeditor of The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches

Victoria Aarons’s Memory Spaces breaks new ground in the study of graphic novels. Focusing on the work of six twenty-first-century Jewish women graphic novelists, the author brilliantly discusses the distinctive contribution of gendered writing, showing how each of the six writes in the shadow of various periods of the Jewish historical experience, utilizing visual culture to express what it means to be Jewish and a woman, to be shaped by and yet transcend the past. The relationship between memory and identity emerges with crystal clarity.

– Alan Berger, Raddock Family Eminent Scholar Chair in Holocaust Studies

This is a richly textured account of Jewish women graphic novelists who engender traumatic memories in the body. Victoria Aarons’s focus on the materiality of graphic narratives revisions the comic medium as a site of bodily exposure. She beautifully captures the anxieties of Jewish identity in graphic form.

– Ken Koltun-Fromm, author of Drawing on Religion: Reading and the Moral Imagination in Comics and Graphic Novels