Tickets for Everybody Reads 2022 on March 10th are available now! Click here for more information.
On March 10, in partnership with Multnomah County Library and The Library Foundation, Literary Arts will present Mira Jacob as the culminating event of the Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads 2022 program.
This year’s programming centers on Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir, Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations.
Learn more about Everybody Reads and additional programming through the Multnomah County Library online here!
Good Talk is a bold, wry, and intimate graphic memoir about American identity, interracial families, and the realities that divide us. It was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award, named a New York Times Notable Book.
Jacob has said “I wrote the book for people like me, who have always been invisible. And for mixed-race families who feel really torn up every single day in this country and can’t see themselves.”
Jacob discusses the origins of the project in this interview with Guernica Magazine.
Readers often remark on Good Talk’s unique artistic style. While their conversations progress and change, the characters maintain the same neutral and flat expressions throughout the work.
Jacob talks about this creative choice, as well as how she learned new techniques and stretched herself as an artist while making the book, in this interview with The Atlantic.
Jacob was drawn to writing and creating art at a young age, but her path to becoming a published author was long and winding.
In this intimate conversation with writer Isaac Fitzgerald, Jacob relays the twists and turns that lead her to her success today.
Want to read like Mira Jacob?
She shares a few of her favorite books from Asian and Asian-American writers in this round-up.
Interested in more? Below is a bio of Mira Jacob’s life and writing career thus far.
Mira Jacob is a novelist, memoirist, illustrator, and cultural critic. She was born and raised in New Mexico, where her parents immigrated to from India in 1968. In her youth, the Jacobs were one of the few South Asian families in their small desert town. Jacob grew up listening to her parents share memories of their native homes and traditions, which served as early motivation and influence for her writing practice, stating “my original interest in storytelling was to capture the stories of my parents.”
Jacob began writing and creating art at a young age. In fifth grade, she won an essay contest sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution (her essay was on “Tools of Early America”). After high school, she left New Mexico to attend college out east; first attending Smith, then Wesleyan briefly, after which she dropped out of school for a while. She moved around a bit before returning to school at Oberlin College in Ohio, where she was accepted into their writing program and received her BA in 1996.
After graduating from Oberlin, Jacob moved to New York. In her first years there, she worked a slew of odd jobs, including a position with a book packager and a one-year stint as a writer on VH1’s Pop Up Video. In 2010, she earned her MFA from The New School. When not in classes or working temp jobs, Jacob was writing and drawing in journals. “My journals were insane. I have all these painted journals—me simply trying to put things together with lots of paintings and drawings and words.”
Jacob released her debut novel, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, in 2014. She worked on the book over ten years before its publication. It’s an irreverent story about a family wrestling with its future and its past. Gary Shteyngart, author of Our Country Friends, described The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing as “punchy, clever, and stuffed with delicious chapati… jumping effortlessly from India to the States, creating a vibrant portrait of a world in flux.” It was named one of the Best Books of the Year by The Boston Globe, Kirkus Reviews, Bustle, and The Millions.
Jacob turned next to nonfiction, publishing Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations in 2018. A bold, wry, and intimate graphic memoir about American identity, interracial families, and the realities that divide us, Jacob has said “I wrote the book for people like me, who have always been invisible. And for mixed-race families who feel really torn up every single day in this country and can’t see themselves.”
Jacob’s son was the inspiration for the memoir; he is half-Jewish, and half-Indian, and when he was six years old, at the tail end of the Obama administration, he started to ask innocently tough questions about the world around him and his place in society. Jacob wanted to share their conversations as a way to work through these big questions herself; she chose the graphic genre as a way to include the audience more intimately. “I just drew us, on printer paper, and I stuck us on top of his Michael Jackson albums and I drew the conversation that way. It implicates the reader in a kind of sideways way… the reader is now eavesdropping on a conversation I’m having with my son.” She first published those conversations in 2015 as a graphic article for BuzzFeed, “37 Questions from My Mixed-Race Son,” which quickly went viral.
Critics and readers have responded with praise. Writer Celeste Ng called Good Talk, “hilarious and heart-rending,” and Time described it as, “often heartbreaking, but also infused with levity and humor. What stands out most is the fierce compassion with which Jacob parses the complexities of family and love.”
Good Talk was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award, and named a New York Times Notable Book. It was selected as a Best Book of the Year by Time, Esquire, Publisher’s Weekly, and Library Journal. It is currently in development as a television series with Film 44.
Jacob is a visiting professor in the MFA Creative Writing program at The New School, and a founding faculty member of the MFA Program at Randolph College. She is the co-founder of Pete’s Reading Series in Brooklyn, where she spent thirteen years bringing literary fiction, non-fiction, and poetry to Williamsburg.
Jacob lives in Brooklyn with her husband, documentary filmmaker Jed Rothstein, and their son; she is working on her next novel.