Richmond author's 'Flying Couch' is wonderful graphic memoir

"Flying Couch," by Amy Kurzweil of Richmond, is a coming-of-age story in the graphic novel genre.

Kurzweil's comics appear in the The New Yorker and other publications, and her short stories have appeared in the literary journals The Toast, Washington Square Review, Hobart and Shenandoah. Graphic novels are a combination of text and drawings that can tell a story. In this case, it is an autobiographical weave of the author's own coming-of- age in which she tells the stories of her grandmother and her mother as well. These three stories are inextricably combined and so the author discovers she must go back in time through their lives to find completeness in her own identity. This wonderful graphic memoir will be great for young adult readers and adults.

The story of her grandmother is actually an important contribution to history as she was a living witness and survivor of the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II. The author tells her own story of traveling to Israel, becoming an artist, exploring her mother's narrative as a psychologist and a refugee in Europe, and most poignantly, her Bubbe's (grandmother) tale of escaping from the Warsaw Ghetto and surviving World War II by disguising herself as a gentile for four years. Bubbe's story of difficulty and danger is always superseded by her own yearning to renew her true identity as a Jew in a largely Christian world in which she is hiding. In "Flying Couch," Bubbe is delightfully portrayed as a really funny, strong, straight-forward personality who possesses a lot of innate wisdom and big-heartedness. Kurzweil's illustrations deliver the reader into each character and place, including that of the mind, with seamless form, making this graphic novel a good first taste of the genre.

The author's admirably successful mission in writing this book is actually about the same thing. She literally and figuratively illustrates her own plight to find her identity in our current era as a young Jewish woman in a time of sometimes confusing and conflicting issues. In all of this pressure to know who we are, we must ultimately be the simple truth of it, no matter what has gone before. In Kurzweil's case, the simple truth she must declare is that she is a graphic artist and must fulfill this art and she does this very impressively with this debut memoir. Every page of delightfully illustrated scenes from her imagination tell stories with openness and at times heart-rending precision and at other times light-hearted youthful joy. The stories come together with grace, honoring all three lives with completeness, respect and a refreshing sense for how people really are in personality and style. "Flying Couch" is a beautiful book of extraordinary talent.

An author reading and signing with Amy Kurzweil for "Flying Couch" is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 20, at 7 p..m., at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox.

Colin Harrington is the Events Manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes reader comments at


"Flying Couch"

By Amy Kurzweil

Publisher: Catapult/Black Balloon

Graphic Novel

294 Pages