Thursday, May 2, 2019

Q&A with Mira Jacob

Mira Jacob is the author of the new graphic memoir Good Talk. She also has written the novel The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times and Electric Literature. She lives in Brooklyn.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Good Talk, and why did you choose the form of a graphic memoir?

A: Actually, the conversations themselves chose the format. My son was asking me a lot of questions about being brown in America, and I didn’t know how to answer him.

I kept trying to write an essay about it, but I froze up every time because we were living in a country in which no story could ever be bad enough, no feeling could ever be scary enough. As many times as I tried to position us, I felt the gaze of the disbeliever. And I was exhausted.

So drawing the conversations just felt like a shortcut. Readers could choose to read our conversation or not, but I didn’t have to explain the reality of our situation any more, or beg anyone to care about it.

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: You know when people say "Good talk"? When they haven't had one. When they've left the conversation confused or off-kilter or unsure of what just happened--i.e. 95 percent of all our conversations.

And yet we try, over and over again, to talk to each other. There is something so endearing and sweet and weird about that to me--this very human impulse to be understood, and to believe that will happen when we push noises through our mouths. I wanted to get to all the layers a conversation can be.  

Q: What do your family members think of the book?

A: If they hate it, they haven't told me. 

In general, my family has been remarkably cool about this going into the world. I don't doubt that some of them are uncomfortable with parts of it, but I'm not overly worried about their discomfort either. It's an uncomfortable time for many, many people, and for far worse reasons. A little introspection between family is necessary and good. 

Q: Celeste Ng wrote of the book, "Good Talk isn't just Mira Jacob's personal story. It also illuminates the increasingly fractured world we live in." What do you hope readers take away from Good Talk?

A: These conversations are the ones that are particular to my life, but I think everyone has things that have been said to them, and things they've said to other people, that live inside them on repeat because they are too scared to investigate what those things mean.

My hope is that by reading mine, some of theirs might bubble up too, and reveal themselves as not so scary. I think when we have that kind of patience with ourselves, we find it for other people, too. 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Good Talk has been optioned and I am working on turning it into a television show. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Mira Jacob.

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