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Drawing on family stories to illustrate a boyhood

For graphic artist and memoirist Martin Lemelman­, the best editors of his new graphic memoir, “Two Cents Plain,” which recalls his Brownsville childhood as the son of Holocaust survivors, turned out to be his own family members.  Lemelman started the work by writing his childhood from memory — and then went to his family to fill in the blanks. 

For graphic artist and memoirist Martin Lemelman­, the best editors of his new graphic memoir, “Two Cents Plain,” which recalls his Brownsville childhood as the son of Holocaust survivors, turned out to be his own family members. Lemelman started the work by writing his childhood from memory — and then went to his family to fill in the blanks.


“When you write from memory, it’s often one-sided, so after hearing the same stories told by different people, it was only [proper] to write the story using everyone’s perspective,” Lemelman says. “It’s very interesting to have that conversation of ‘what do you remember?’"


And what did he remember? A hostile childhood while his father worked at a candy store, a bleak relationship with his father and growing up with immigrant parents — tricky, touchy topics he had to describe in detail if he wanted his memoir to work. “I brought the manuscript to my brother after nine months of writing it and he said, ‘You’re very angry at daddy.’ My relationship with my father was rough and so initially, yes, the book was very angry. My brother’s response was, ‘You have to try and understand him,’ which I found to be the most profound advice because it really changed [the dynamic] of the book.”

 
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