Books·How I Wrote It

How a great loss inspired Lorina Mapa's graphic memoir about growing up in the Philippines

Quebec artist Lorina Mapa's first book, Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos and Me, explores her upbringing in the Philippines in the 1980s.
Lorina Mapa is the author and illustrator of the graphic memoir Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos and Me. (Conundrum Press/Courtesy of Lorina Mapa)

After the sudden death of her father, Quebec artist Lorina Mapa began drawing her early memories of him as a form of therapy. The collection of stories, full of poignant and silly moments, formed a portrait of her childhood in the Philippines, as a Duran Duran–loving tomboy, apple of her father's eye and politically outspoken teenager during the turbulent 1980s.

The result was Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos and Me, Mapa's first book. Below, she describes how it came to be.

Inspired by tragedy

"My dad died suddenly in a car accident and years later I was still having a hard time with it because we were very close. I started drawing stories about my dad, trying to bring those memories back to life in my mind. It was very therapeutic. As I continued, I realized maybe I could create something out of this.

"One of the little stories at the beginning of the book is about the time that I wanted to buy some flip flops. I went to the store with my mom and dad and I didn't like any of the flip flops I saw, which were all flowery or with butterflies. I saw a pair of men's flip flops with rabbits on them and said, 'Oh those are the ones that I want.' They ended up being the Playboy bunny icons and my dad thought it was hilarious that I was so innocent. And of course he bought them. I just started remembering things like that and then sketched it out. They made me laugh and brought tears to my eyes."

Lorina Mapa with her father. (Courtesy of Lorina Mapa)

A literary assist from Ken Dryden

"I actually hit a road block at one point in the book. I had bits and pieces and stories, but I was wondering how to put it all together and keep it feeling organic. I was worried that putting the pieces together would seem too mechanical or forced. I didn't write for maybe a month, but in a period of two weeks I read The Game by Ken Dryden and watched The Artist. Those two things freed me up because they were very creative and you could see the people behind it restructuring things very deliberately. Especially The Game by Ken Dryden. He does a lot of back and forth from the present and to the past. It's so well done and such a great book."

Breaking the barrier of the "other"

"One of my favourite books is probably My Name Is Asher Lev by a Jewish writer named Chaim Potok. I read this book when I was 13 and it changed the way I saw the world. It was about a Hasidic Jewish boy growing up in 1950s in Brooklyn. He was an art prodigy in the manner of Picasso. Nothing about his life was the same as my life. I was a Catholic girl growing up in the Philippines in the 1980s. Yet, there were things about how he saw the world, which were so similar to how I saw the world. I could relate to the emotions he was going through. It made me realize how we are all individuals and that every single person in the world has a story to tell. I learned that early on and kept it with me. I think I related to it so much because there were many similarities in the differences.

"When I was telling my story, I didn't want our culture to be so different and inaccessible to people in the west reading it. There are a lot of similarities and that's why I included a lot of the pop culture references. That was very important to me because that was how I grew up. If someone living in the U.S. is reading about a girl in the Philippines, they might have some assumptions of them. But when they read about what she's going through and find similarities to their own childhood, all of a sudden it breaks that barrier of the 'other.' Maybe it will break a few stereotypes of what people think girls growing up in different parts of the world are like."

Lorina Mapa's comments have been edited and condensed.