When the curtain rose at the London premiere of the play Peter Pan in 1904, it unveiled a drama of flying children, fairies, and pirates that would soon become a classic—and inspire countless spin-offs, adaptations, and reinterpretations. On the cinematic side, these began with the 1924 silent-film version of the play, starring Anna May Wong as Tiger Lily. Disney’s animated Peter Pan (1953) has been described as “ageless” (though one wonders if critics took note of the decidedly dated, stereotypical depiction of Native Americans), while Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991) told the story of a grown-up Peter’s transformation into a mature father.
“I never intended this book to be published,” writes Phoebe Gloeckner in the introduction to her new collection, A Child’s Lifeand Other Stories. Perusing these finely drawn, mostly autobiographical comic works, which span twenty years, it’s not difficult to see why its creator might be wary of foisting her stories on a public whose idea of an enjoyable narrative is Titanic. Gloeckner’s unsparing memory and painstakingly detailed pen-and-ink drawings of family dysfunction, childhood cruelty, and queasy sex make for seriously disquieting reading. The book takes us through the years with Gloeckner’s alter ego Minnie, whose childhood is dominated by her overbearing, ogling stepfather and whose adolescence is spent on the streets of San Francisco in a morass of unsavory drugs and even less savory men.
Coffee Will Make You Black, by April Sinclair: A black girl in ‘60s Chicago grows up and into her sexuality. One of the funniest and best-written books I read last year. And the sequel just came out, so there’s no more waiting to hear what happens to Stevie.
Makes Me Wanna Holler, by Nathan McCall: Eloquent, unflinchingly honest, politically astute. This book has a lot to teach me, as a white girl, about the lived experience of a black man in racist America.