by Liana Finck. Random House, September 2018. 240 p. ill. ISBN 9780525508922 (hardcover), $28.00.

Reviewed June 2019
Ellen Tisdale, Art Librarian, Architecture/Fine Arts Library, University of Manitoba,

Cover of PassingPassing for Human is an exploration of identity and strangeness, a story of embracing your “otherness” in life and creative work. Finck brings a unique approach to the memoir genre, stopping and re-starting her story multiple times, each time with a fresh title page. She attempts to understand her own story in different contexts: from the perspectives of her mother, her father, vignettes of her childhood, her romantic life, and from the story of her own shadow. Finck makes use of allegory and reshapes biblical stories, weaving magical realism throughout the book.

Passing for Human sees Finck take on a looser style than her first graphic novel, A Bintel Brief. Her pen and ink line drawings use hatching and scribble to express depth of emotion and turmoil. The freedom in her drawing style and loose lines contribute to the sense that the reader has found something intimate and personal. Finck alternates between regular boxes reminiscent of comic-style panels and full-page drawings to vary the pacing of her narrative, making use of minimalism to highlight key moments. While the drawing style strays far from realism, this does not detract from its ability to convey emotion.

For artists, the insecurities that Finck personifies as gnawing rats may feel familiar. For readers of any background trying to understand themselves and how their strangeness might fit into their lives, this book may help them to feel less alone. This book would be an excellent addition to any graphic novel collection serving teens and adults, but will particularly resonate with students in art and design schools.