Light Reading: Tina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap

Friday, November 22, 2013


(Photo credit)
Last week, while browsing through the teen graphic novel section (Why are graphic novels always shelved in the teen section?), I came across this lovely blue-cover title that I remember hearing about from somewhere sometime but didn't know anything about. Books like that usually rate higher with me - maybe the serendipity of picking a random book and not knowing anything about it always keeps me guessing through the end of the book, since I never know what to expect.

When I opened the book for the first time, a few days later, it turned out to a very different kind of graphic book from what I had grown accustomed to. This one doesn't have the panels that populate most comic books. Mostly, it has a lot of free uncluttered and very clean drawing. It was almost like calligraphy but in pictures. In addition to being a very beautiful book, there was some prose straddling the pictures. Tina's Mouth is basically Tina's diary. One of her professors gives her class several projects to do - Tina's was to write a diary to discover more about herself. Her diary was a search for answers to questions such as "Who am I?", "What am I?" and many other such questions of an existential nature. Pretty deep for a high school student. In fact, Tina does appear to be a very philosophical person, whether as a result of writing this diary or by nature, I don't know, though she says that she never cared for such questions until she started writing the diary.

Tina's life has been going pretty good, what with an inseparable best friend and no worries. But then a little over a year ago, things start to change. After her parents split, her best friend began to get interested in boys and sexy clothes. She abandoned Tina, saying she was too childish. Tina's more-than-friendly-interest in a boy was also turning out to be an opportunity for her, though by the end of the year, she learns a great deal about boys as well.

Tina's Mouth

I liked this book for several reasons. Other than the graphics being very magnetic, Tina is the daughter of Indian immigrants, and that's a whole category of books I enjoy reading and identify with a lot. There are several experiences she shares that sometimes made me sympathetic and other times made me very amused. How having to "hang out" with friends of her parent's friends' kids made her feel, how she had to go to Indian parties dressed in strange-fitting Indian clothes that she rarely wore, how she and her siblings all had their share of identity issues. Tina also talks about the many problems she faces in high school - friendship issues, dating, etc. This isn't one of the best graphic books I've read but it was certainly enjoyable in its own way. It's a breezy read and to any graphic novel lover, I would certainly recommend this. If you are just starting out with reading graphic books, or haven't read any yet, there are several others that I would recommend.

2 comments:

bermudaonion(Kathy) said...

I really enjoyed this one too.

Athira / Aths said...

I guess it depends. In both my libraries, it is in the YA section. In the B&N here, it is in its own separate section, which is good. I guess they just want the graphic books accessible to the YA audience, since they are probably the genre's main readers.