By Nadja Spiegelman
384 pages; Riverhead Books
Available at: Amazon.com
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Violent moods, dazzling talents and fiercely held secrets make Nadja Spiegelman's mother, Françoise Mouly, endlessly fascinating in this intricate memoir. "She could set the universe aflame," writes Spiegelman, "but she used herself as fuel." In an attempt to fathom her mother's impact on her own life and character, Spiegelman interviewed her about her troubled childhood in France, her explosive adolescence, her flight to America, her meteoric career (Mouly is currently the art editor at The New Yorker
) and her marriage to Nadja's father, Maus
creator Art Spiegelman. Most illuminating, however, is Françoise's relationship with her own mother, Josée, a flamboyant Frenchwoman who lived on a houseboat, entertained like a queen and parented like a demon. But to understand the volatile Françoise, Nadja had to tease out the facts from her mother's fictions, a delicate operation that eventually sent Nadja to Paris, where Josée treated her to her own version of events and, surprisingly, to an ample helping of love. Hearing her mother's and grandmother's contradictory stories can't help Nadja pin down the truth about their lives, but it does free her to create a story of her own.
— Cathy Medwick