We are on our own: a memoir

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Drawn & Quarterly, May 16, 2006 - Comics & Graphic Novels - 122 pages
49 Reviews
A stunning memoir of a mother and her daughter’s survival in WWII and their subsequent lifelong struggle with faithIn this captivating and elegantly illustrated graphic memoir, Miriam Katin retells the story of her and her mother’s escape on foot from the Nazi invasion of Budapest. With her father off fighting for the Hungarian army and the German troops quickly approaching, Katin and her mother are forced to flee to the countryside after faking their deaths. Leaving behind all of their belongings and loved ones, and
unable to tell anyone of their whereabouts, they disguise themselves as a Russian servant and illegitimate child, while literally staying a few steps ahead of the German soldiers.
We Are on Our Own is a woman’s attempt to rebuild her earliest childhood trauma in order to come to an understanding of her lifelong questioning of faith. Katin’s faith is shaken as she wonders how God could create and tolerate such a wretched world, a world of fear and hiding, bargaining and theft, betrayal and abuse. The complex and horrific experiences on the run are difficult for a child to understand, and as a child, Katin saw them with the simple longing, sadness, and
curiosity she felt when her dog ran away or a stranger made her mother cry. Katin’s ensuing lifelong struggle with faith is depicted throughout the book in beautiful full-color sequences.
We Are on Our Own is the first full-length graphic novel by Katin, at the age of sixty-three. Born in Hungary during WWII,Miriam Katinimmigrated to Israel in 1957 where she served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a graphic artist. She has lived in New York City since 1990, working as a background designer for MTV and Disney. In this illustrated graphic memoir, Miriam Katin retells the story of her and her mother's escape on foot from the Nazi invasion of Budapest. With her father off fighting for the Hungarian army and the German troops quickly approaching, Katin and her mother are forced to flee to the countryside after faking their deaths. Leaving behind all of their belongings and loved ones, and unable to tell anyone of their whereabouts, they disguise themselves as apeasant woman and her illegitimate child, while literally staying a few steps ahead of the German soldiers.
We Are on Our Own is a woman's attempt to rebuild her earliest childhood trauma in order to come to an understanding of her lifelong questioning of faith. Katin's faith is shaken as she wonders how God could create and tolerate such a wretched world, a world of fear and hiding, bargaining and theft, betrayal and abuse. The complex and horrific experiences on the run are difficult for a child to understand, and as a child, Katin saw them with the simple longing, sadness, and curiosity she felt when her dog disappeared or when a stranger made her mother cry. "In Budapest circa 1944, when Miriam is a young girl, her mother, Esther, decides to avoid the impending Nazi roundup of Jews by faking their deaths and escaping to the countryside with forged papers. But things hardly improve outside the city, where villagers treat them no better in their new identities, taking their dark features to mean they're gypsies. To make matters worse, a Nazi officer quickly figures out the Katins' secret and uses it as a means of prying sexual favors from Esther. Hard circumstances turn desperate once the Red Army sweeps through, exhibiting the morals of drunken Vikings; Esther joins the starving, freezing villagers as they take clothes off soldiers' corpses. She does her best to conceal all these horrific events from little Miriam, though the best she can manage is to induce a sort of baffled confusion. [A] powerful Holocaust survival memoir."—Kirkus Reviews"The burgeoning popularity of graphic novels has opened the door to new voices with compelling stories and artistic skills to match; for example, 63-year-old animator Katin, whose remarkable debut this is. It is a memoir recounting how she and her mother faked their deaths and fled Budapest after the Nazi occupied the city. With forged papers obtained from a black marketer, they escaped to the countryside in the guise of a servant girl and her illegitimate child. Katin relates their harrowing lives there and her mother's desperate search for her missing husband after the war. Brief passages set decades later reveal how Katin's traumatic experiences left her without any religious faith to pass on to her own child. The events she reports are powerful in themselves, and her sensitive, softly expressive drawings and straightforward storytelling . . . Moreover, Katin's understatement makes the story all the more chilling and heartbreaking. This impressive book belongs in all serious graphic novel collections and is also a natural for Jewish studies."––Gordon Flagg, Booklist"This moving WWII memoir is the debut graphic novel from Katin, an animator for Disney and MTV. It tells the story of toddler Katin—here called Lisa—and her mother, Esther Levy, Hungarian Jews who must flee Nazi persecution. With her husband off fighting in the Hungarian army, Esther is forced to abandon all their belongings and take on the identity of a servant girl with a bastard child. She survives however she can—whether making alterations on the bloodstained uniforms of dead soldiers or surrendering her body to an adulterous German officer. Katin shows Esther's harrowing experiences with an objective eye, but her own experience of the time is the fragmented memory of a child; unable to understand the vast tragedy unfolding around her, she focuses on the loss of a pet dog. The story flashes forward to the '70s and even later to show the long-term effects on Katin and her family's faith. Katin's art is an impressionistic swirl; early scenes in sophisticated Budapest recall the elegance of Helen Hokinson, while the chaos of war is captured in dark, chaotic compositions reminiscent of Kathe Kollwitz. This book is a powerful reminder of the lingering price of survival."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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Her style of art matches her storytelling perfectly. - Goodreads
But, dude, the book has a happy ending, and t - Goodreads
However, the storytelling can't keep up. - Goodreads
The ending made this book. - Goodreads

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Beautifully rendered and told. Read full review

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Beautifully rendered and told. Read full review

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Contents

Section 1
10
Section 2
15
Section 3
72
Copyright

6 other sections not shown

About the author (2006)

Born in Hungary during WWII, Miriam Katin immigrated to Israel in 1957 where she served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a graphic artist. She has lived in New York City since 1990, working as a background designer for MTV and Disney.

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