EL本棚紹介(15) Batman: The Long Halloween, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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One of my favorite pieces of pop culture when I was a child was Batman: The Animated Series. Even as an adult, I think it is a high-quality television show. One thing that I forgot about it was how often Batman is just fighting the mob, not supervillains. In The Long Halloween, Batman works with the police to stop what seems to be a mob war. Think: Batman mixed with The Godfather.

Each of the 12 chapters is about a different murder on a different holiday. If you read all of the stories, you might feel like you have become friends with the three main characters as they investigate the crimes. That’s what makes the surprise ending even more powerful. I also think you will be surprised by the crazy, ugly drawing style in this book. You can choose a story in the middle to see if you like it. If you read from the beginning, you might find the first chapter a little confusing or too difficult.

My two cents: This is a classic American superhero comic, but I think it also stands on its own. I think this is a good introduction to Batman.

Batman - The Long Halloween | Comics - Comics Dune | Buy ...

EL本棚紹介(14)The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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Everyone knows the name Batman. And many of you will recognize his rival, the Joker, with white skin and green hair. This is a comic book classic in which the Joker tries to force Batman and the police to become like him – to go crazy after “one bad day.”

Superhero comics can be difficult to read (even for me) because often you need to know all the characters and their background already. But The Killing Joke tells the story of the origin of the Joker, and you don’t need to know much about the other characters.

Warning: There is some sexualized violence which may be uncomfortable to read.

My two cents: If you want to read a good but short Batman comic that will stick in your mind, this is the one for you.

Batman: The Killing Joke: Mark Hamill to Voice Joker ...

EL本棚紹介(13) Maus, by Art Spiegelman

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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This is the book that changed how average Americans thought about comic books. Until Maus started becoming popular, comics were “just for kids.” After Maus, people started calling them “graphic novels.”

Maus tells the story of Art Spiegelman’s Jewish mother and father during the Holocaust and how they survived the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Don’t be scared, though: the story is about humans surviving terrible things, not about showing those terrible things. It also tells the story of Art’s relationship with his father in the 1980s, and there are some humorous parts, too.

Note: Art’s father does not speak American English, he speaks eastern-European English, so this is a good book to practice reading World English, too.

My two cents: This is a serious book, and it is a seriously good book. You should read it. Everyone should read it.

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman Paperback Book ...

EL本棚紹介(12) Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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Following Maus, Persepolis is a big name in modern graphic novels (comic books). It tells the story of Marjane Satrapi’s life growing up in Iran and Austria during the 1970s through 1990s. Her experiences teach us what it is like to grow up during a war and major social change. The Iran she grows up in and the one she returns to after going to high school in Austria are very different places.

This is a book to read if you are interested in the history of the Middle East. Or if you are interested in culture clash/culture shock. Or if you are interested in women’s rights. The strength of this book is that it offers an inside look on life in Iran. Satrapi’s perspective is quite different from what you read in the news, even though she narrates some of the same historical events that ended up in newspapers. Satrapi’s love of punk culture also shows in the punk/zine style art.

Check out the trailer for the movie version here: U.S. trailer: Persepolis (imdb.com)

Warning: There are a few pages discussing suicide and depression.

My two cents: This is a very long book, and I think the first part might be difficult to get into. I suggest skipping to the middle of the story and reading just a chapter or two from her time in Austria to try it out.

The Complete Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by ...

EL本棚紹介(11)They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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There is a famous saying that “history is shaped by the winners.” That’s not exactly true: I think that “history is shaped by the strong.” And so, when powerful people or institutions don’t want a story told, it can be silenced. They Called Us Enemy tells an important story that I never learned about in the US school system.

In this book, Takei narrates his experiences as a Japanese American, born in the US, during World War II. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese and Japanese Americans living in the US were considered enemies. At least 120,000 were captured and forced to live in “internment camps” for up to four years until the end of the war. Similar to Spiegelman’s book about the holocaust, Takei writes about good memories and bad, with both smiles and tears. But, as you read this book, it should be clear that this was a massive historical crime against an innocent population.

My two cents: Takei intentionally connects his experiences in the 1940s to events as recent as 2019. The past lives with us, and it is our responsibility to learn from it.

IDW Announces George Takei Graphic Novel Memoir 'They ...

EL本棚紹介(10)Beautiful Darkness, by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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Beautiful Darkness: the title says it all. Every page of this book is full of beautiful bright watercolor backgrounds and fairytale characters. On the other hand, the story itself takes many dark turns. Imagine The Secret World of Arrietty 『借りぐらしのアリエッティ』, where the whole family is surviving out in the wilderness. And everyone who the main character, Aurora, meets is dangerous, selfish, and willing to kill.

Part of the beauty of this book is the freedom to interpret it however you like. Is it about mental illness or trauma? Is it a story about society and human nature, like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies『蠅の王』? Or is it just a weird little fantasy story about some elf people?

Note: There are a few grotesque (グロい) pictures, so don’t read if you dislike that kind of thing.

My two cents: This is a book I will keep thinking about, and it is a (weird!) book I want to share!

Beautiful Darkness - Another comic recommendation for fans ...

EL本棚紹介(9)Black Hole, by Charles Burns

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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Black Hole takes place in the 1970s United States, where free love and drugs lead to horrific results—like body mutation. Clearly a metaphor for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), characters who have sex with infected people grow extra mouths or tails, or their face and skin simply start rotting off like zombies.

The real strength of this book is what happens to those people. Who can hide their mutation and “pass” as “normal”? Who must flee society and live in the woods with the other mutants? Black Hole may appear to be about STDs, but it is really about stigma, isolation, prejudice, and a whole lot of other things.

Note: Black Hole is one long story broken up into chapters. Some chapters retell the same events from a different character’s point of view, so it can be a little confusing. I recommend just reading the first chapter, which is like a horror short story. Then decide if you want to continue.

My two cents: Sometimes metaphors don’t need to be subtle. Black Hole is really weird, and that’s okay.

Charles Burns brings his haunting cartoon trilogy to a ...

English Lounge Opens October 1st!

We are open from 10/1! Seminars begin on 10/8
Check out our new schedule.
Come and join us during the autumn season – join a seminar, practice your conversation in the conversation circle, find an interesting book, or just stop by and say “Hi”!

EL本棚紹介(8)Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag, by A.K. Summers

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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One of the strengths of comics and manga is their ability to show instead of just tell. Sometimes we cannot use words to express how we feel, so we can use pictures. This is exactly how Summers tells the story of her pregnancy, as a gay, butch (masculine-presenting) woman. And she tells that very personal story with a great sense of humor!

Pregnant Butch is written and drawn like a zine. “Zines” are handmade subculture magazines with a punk style. This is a good match with Summers’ experience as an “outsider”: few people around her even understood how a lesbian could get pregnant!

Note: While there are a few jokes and cultural references that you will probably not understand, there is a lot of information here about medical culture, pregnancy, LGBTQ culture, and more.

My two cents: One thing I appreciate from reading this book is Summers’ struggle with her identity as “butch” in a world where more and more people are coming out as transgender. This is a perspective you don’t often hear from, but it is important, too!

Comics | A.K. Summers

EL本棚紹介(7) Adrian and the Tree of Secrets, by Hubert and Marie Caillou

[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]

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Meet Adrian, a teenager trapped in a boring town with strict parents and catholic schooling. Like many young people, he struggles to find out who he is. He experiences rejection by his mother, classmates, and even his best friend as he explores a hidden romance with another boy at his school.

There are relatable themes here, but this book may also be a window into the heart and mind of someone who is very little like you. With very few people who accept him for who he is and nobody to listen to his story, Adrian is pushed to his emotional limits. The story climaxes with an homage to Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, reminding us that these themes are nothing new.

My two cents: The gentle art style reflects the “perfect” surface of Adrian’s life, hiding imperfections just as he hides his inner struggle.