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Everybody Reads: Mira Jacob

Mira Jacob, the featured author for Everybody Reads 2022, speaks about family, race, art, America, and her graphic memoir Good Talk.

In this episode of The Archive Project, we bring you a talk from Mira Jacob, which was the culminating event of the 2022 Everybody Read’s program.

Every year, the Multnomah County Library chooses one book they hope the whole city of Portland will read. Between January and April, the Library and their partner organizations, host events based around the themes of the book. And they distribute thousands of free copies—thanks to The Library Foundation—to readers of all ages from across the county. Here at Literary Arts, our role is to bring the featured author to town for a talk in front of a live audience.

This year, the Library selected Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations.

In 2017, Jacob started posting comics to Instagram, featuring conversations with her young son. He had a lot of questions, many of them about Michael Jackson, and she did her best to answer them honestly. That project became Good Talk. The book is about her immediate and extended family, and it’s about coming of age and living in America as a woman, as a person of color, and as an artist. It asks more questions than it answers. Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere, said, “By turns hilarious and heart-rending, it’s exactly the book America needs at this moment.”

The talk you are about to hear is remarkable not only for its depth of insight, but also for its range. Jacob is by turns tender, hilarious, sarcastic and sincere. Jacob talks about the deeply personal creative journey to creating Good Talk, and also explores the national context in which it was created—the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson or the political rise of Donald Trump, for example—and how they challenged her understanding of herself, her family, and the narrative about America she’s heard her whole life.

“The thing I love about us is that we are the animals that will [talk to each other] again and again and again with this brazen hope that this time we will be understood. And sometimes we really are understood. Sometimes we really do hear each other. Sometimes it really is a good talk.”

Mira Jacob is the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, and the graphic memoir Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations. Her recent work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Vogue, Glamour, Tin House, Electric Literature and Literary Hub. She lives in Brooklyn.

“[Art is] something that no one has asked you for, and yet you feel compelled to create it.”

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