Monday September 04, 2017

Why Jillian Tamaki believes in the power of magical realism in a digital age

Jillian Tamaki's graphic novels have won the Eisner Award and the Governor General's Literary Award. Boundless is a collection of short graphic stories.

Jillian Tamaki's graphic novels have won the Eisner Award and the Governor General's Literary Award. Boundless is a collection of short graphic stories. (Reynard Li/Drawn & Quarterly)

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 Published in the spring to rave reviews from The Guardian and The Atlantic, Jillian Tamaki's latest book, Boundless, includes stories of magical realism, like "Half Life," in which a woman discovers she is shrinking, and poignant domestic dramas like "bed bug." Tamaki won an Eisner Award for her solo comic SuperMutant Magic Academy and won a Governor General's Literary Award for Skim, a comic she collaborated on with her cousin.

The Toronto-based comic creator talked to Shelagh Rogers about creating this collection of graphic short stories.

Body politics

"Women's bodies are literally one of the most political things on the face of the earth. So, how you choose to depict them is very loaded. I grew up in a very white part of Calgary, Alberta. In the 1980s, there were not a lot of mixed-race kids so I was constantly looking around for images of myself. Now I'm in the position of being an image-maker, it's something that I take seriously."

On the coded messages one can find in art

"In terms of the range one can depict human bodies, they are pretty realistic, but there's so much information just baked into an image. In terms of the execution, it was always about how it reinforces or add to the message of the text or story.

"Things spin off into unexpected places and you can't predict them or control them. Works of art take on a life of their own. That's something I've learned while making books." 

Jillian Tamaki's comments have been edited and condensed.