cover image Sleeping While Standing

Sleeping While Standing

Taki Soma. Avery Hill, $16.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-910395-68-4

Soma’s bracingly frank solo debut, a collection of short autobio comics, handles incidents great and small, traumatizing and uplifting, with the same gentle, questioning touch. Most of the pieces are three to five pages long, brief glimpses into memories spanning from Soma’s early childhood, when she moved with her mother from Tokyo to Minnesota, to her current day-to-day with her husband, Mike, and a series of beloved cats. In between, Soma deals with her mother’s troubling emotional disengagement, her kindly stepfather’s suicide, medical crises, sexual assault, weird dreams, and falling in love with squirrels. The workmanlike art can be stiff—Soma is often better at drawing animals than people—but the imaginative page layouts add dynamism. The stories’ strength lies in Soma’s straightforward approach, as she holds up each fragment and examines it for meaning. Some moments baffle both her and readers’ interpretation—Soma asks what to make of her mother’s repeated attempts to give her up for adoption—but all contribute to her adult sense of self. Readers will find it akin to flipping through an old album with a friend who’s just as curious about the pictures as they’re likely to be. (July)