Monday, August 1, 2011

Meeting Sarah Leavitt, Author of Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me

I recently happened across our local paper’s literary listings for the week and saw that Sarah Leavitt, who wrote the graphic memoir, Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me was going to be in town for a reading. I first heard about her book on Susan Olding’s blog, Proved on the Pulses: On the Essay and Its Literary Cousins (Susan wrote Pathologies: A Life in Essays, one of my favourite books, which I reviewed a couple of years ago); my sister Brogan had also highly recommended Tangles to me.

So on an excruciatingly hot day the week before last I headed over to the Yellow Door coffeehouse, which is a basement venue that has welcomed the likes of Margaret Atwood and Joni Mitchell (back in the day). Sarah greeted me and another audience member (who turned out to be Ian McGillis, who blogs for The Gazette) at the door and ushered us downstairs. Once a small group had assembled, she first told us a bit about her mother (who was diagnosed at age 54 and had the disease for six years) and her writing process (Sarah took notes while her mother was sick and this is her first book). She then read us five chapters of her book onscreen, projecting the first page of the chapter and then each panel in turn. I didn’t think to take any pictures (I was too engrossed in each chapter), but I did get someone to take a picture of the two of us:

Me and Sarah Leavitt (click to enlarge)

The weird thing about Sarah’s art is that it reminds me so much of my sister Brogan’s art, to the point that Tangles main character (Sarah herself) looks like she could be a self-portrait of my sister. And I’m not the only one who thought so: when I brought the book home, Mr. B said the same thing!

Sarah was super friendly (and a fan of book bloggers!)—I’m very much looking forward to reading her book. At the moment, it’s been published in Canada by Freehand Books, but it will come out with Jonathan Cape in the UK in November and with Skyhorse in the U.S. in March 2012.

Read an excerpt of the book at Geist: Waiting for Sleep

Read a one-page comic Sarah did for Geist: You Don’t Say

Read Ian McGillis’s interview: Sarah Leavitt talks about her Alzheimer’s memoir Tangles


  1. I love author events! I'll be watching for your review of this book.

  2. I couldn't tolerate the heat that night and missed this reading. So sad! I've never been to a reading of a graphic novel. I look forward to your review.

  3. Wow! You meet all kinds of interesting people!! I need to stick more closely to you, lol!

  4. My comment was lost again!! I comment all the time but blogger does not like me!

    Anyway, I find the format of this book interesting. What made her decide to write it up as a graphic nove1?

  5. Hey!! I'm so glad you went to her reading!! And how absolutely curious that you thought her version of herself looked like me! I loved how she drew her mother's clasped hands (you'll see what I mean when you read the book)...
    Yeah, I really liked this book.

  6. So glad you got to meet Sarah! That is fantastic. I hope you enjoy the book; it is poignant and sweet and sharp and funny all at once. IMHO, of course!

  7. I'm pretty shy at author events, Kathy, though I find it helps to be able to say I'm a book blogger: it makes me less shy about asking to take a pic with the author! :)

    Rachel, too bad you missed it, although as you can see from my pic, I was bloody hot! This was the first reading of a graphic novel/memoir I'd ever attended, and I thought Sarah's method worked really well. (I do wish I'd taken a pic of her reading!)

    Ha-ha, Brigitte, you do!

    Ti, I'm sorry to hear you've been having issues with commenting on Blogger. Grr. I'm not entirely sure why she decided to write a graphic memoir in the end, other than the fact that when she was making notes (when her mother was sick), she also drew sketches so she could remember her mother's expressions, etc.

    Brogan, thanks for encouraging me to buy this book -- I'm sure I'm going to love it! (About the art, I actually feel like the whole thing looks like something you drew!)

    Susan, I was sorry to miss the joint event you and Sarah did in Kingston, but glad that I at least got to go to Sarah's reading. Thanks for letting me know about this book!

  8. Hi Avis!

    Sounds like the evening was quite something - especially the art work and how it resembled your sister's Brogan's artwork. That must have been a kicker. Going to keep my eye out for your review next.