Monday, March 26, 2018

Generations - a Graphic Novel

I read this graphic novel while waiting backstage for the curtain call of the play in which I just finished acting.  I've heard of life imitating art and so forth, but quite frankly, reading this graphic novel, I was stunned.

In the play, I portrayed a young gay man who was a Christian, but fell in love with an athiest, all the while struggling to keep his homosexuality a secret from his parents - until he is in an automobile accident that leaves him in a coma, with his parents and his partner to make some tough decisions...

In real life, I just lost my mother last December, and I've been dealing with the emotions of that loss, as well as helping my father and coping with the sudden loss last month of a friend...

Then, to start reading this graphic novel about a young man who returns to his hometown, still hiding his homosexuality, afraid to face his father, and living with his grandmother, three aunts, and very pregnant cousin with no job, no prospects, and no future in sight...

What do these three things have in common?  They all deal with the harsh realities of life and learning to depend on, and trust, and never take for granted, the time you have with your family!

Generations, by Flavia Biondi, is the first graphic novel of this creator to be translated into English.  It tells the story of Matteo, who comes back home after a horrible break-up with his boyfriend, and chooses to live with his grandmother and three aunts than to return to the father he believes wants nothing to do with him because he is gay.  Matteo is in a funk, and he can't seem to climb out of the ocean of self-pity in which he finds himself drowning.  With no job, no friends, and no hope, Matteo simply sits on the couch and watches television with his aunts.

Until one night, he comes to the realization that he isn't the only one in his family to have struggles.  He isn't the only member of his family to face despair and fight to survive.  It dawns on Matteo that his grandmother, his aunts, his cousin - heck, even his father! - all of them have stories, struggles that they had to overcome to reach the point in their lives where they are.  It is a turning point for Matteo (and for the reader), as he determines that the only one who can help him is himself!  The next morning, he takes over as caregiver for his ailing grandmother.  He takes her, in her wheelchair, for outings, where he faces former friends and old faces, and discovers that it was not the horror he imagined.  No one looked down on him.  No one glared at him.  Life was moving on, and he had to move with it, or he'd be left behind.

And, of course, he meets Francesco, an aide who comes to assist at the house.  The two become friends, and they even go out for walks.  For the first time since coming home, he has hope.  He sees the sun shine.  Until he discovers that his ex-boyfriend is asking about him.  Until he realizes that there are still things that need to be resolved.  And, for the first time, instead of running away to hide, Matteo decides to confront them.

Generations is not a coming-out story.  It's not really about the fact that Matteo is gay.  His homosexuality is, really, not the focus of the story.  Generations is about family.  It's about relationships.  It's about understanding the importance of those around you, their experiences, and appreciating them for who and what they are.  It's about loss, about growth, about life, and about death.  This book is a powerful and insightful story, and it hits home regardless of your age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, or anything else that society uses to separate us.  It's about us.  ALL of us.

I think Biondi summed it up nicely with what she says Auntie B. always says:

"We're all apples.
And families are like trees heavy with fruit
When we're ripe, we just fall off and leave."

What Matteo learns throughout this story is that even though the apples may fall from the tree, the tree lives on...

RATING:  10 cream pastries and a coffee out of 10 for taking a slice of life and really giving it meaning and making it so worth reading!

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