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The Ride Together
By Paul Karasik and Judy Karasik
Published by Washington Square Press; $14.00 USD

All families are different, but in order to function, they share the ability to accommodate the members of the family, to understand and appreciate each memberís special gifts, quirks and challenges. Paul and Judy Karasik come from such a family, and their collaboration here is a part-prose, part-comics chronicle of the life of their autistic, mildly retarded eldest brother, David, as well as an attempt to understand and convey the unique way in which David copes with the world.

Though the format is unusual, the two Karasik's styles complement each other. Judy, an award-winning poet, writes with a lyrical tenderness and sensitivity, recalling family history through her own subjective experience. Sheís the outspoken, dramatic sister only too quick to give you a piece of her mind, in contrast to Davidís eternal frustration in being able to do the same.

Paul, who so ably distilled the playful, multilayered prose of Paul Auster for the graphic novel adaptation of City of Glass (with David Mazzucchelli), here just as precisely adapts key David-related events in Karasik family history. With a light touch on the art, and a focus on the goofier elements of Davidís condition (such as his need to reenact television shows like The Adventures of Superman day after day, decade after decade) rather than the occasional violent outburst, he almost makes Davidís autism comedic rather than serious, but this is mitigated by the clever, informative methods used to make the reader understand how autistics like David process information. Also, Judyís chapters are more concerned with Davidís struggles, and the struggles in the family to find a place for David, so the differences in storytelling among the two authors keep the book engrossing throughout.

Paul does include one chapter involving him taking David to a Three Stooges film festival that is both funny and visually brilliant, while Judy writes of a road trip with David, and these anecdotes serve to enforce how even siblings in the same house see, remember and recount things differently, and how there are special, one-on-one moments between them that can go unknown by other members of the family. One almost wishes for a companion volume with Paulís and Judyís motherís recollections, and their brother Michaelís. I was not just touched by the book, but by the way it reminded me of my fatherís side of the family, two brothers and two sisters dealing with the youngest sister, my aunt, who has struggled with schizophrenia all her life. Many of us have someone like this in our family, who has no choice but to demand more love and patience of us. Judy and Paul Karasik are likely better artists, perhaps better people, for having David Karasik as their brother, and we readers are fortunate they have chosen to use their gifts to tell his story.

-- Christopher Allen

The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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