Feeding Ghosts

It's a rare author who brings into clear focus the ever-shifting complexities of mother-daughter relationships. Feeding Ghosts, a graphic memoir by Tessa Hulls, covers the nesting-doll lives of three generations of women. It follows Hulls's grandmother, Sun Yi, a journalist who escaped from Communist China; the trajectory of Hulls's mother, Rose, from China to the U.S.; and Hulls's own arc of emotional growth. The skillfully told stories entwine in ways that make each section build on the previous one, propelling readers to uncover how each thread will find its home.

The illustrations are both gorgeous and terrifying. In moments where the memoir touches on emotional wounds, the art slides into the fantastical, depicting ghosts that add layers of meaning. Hulls often appears in panels narrating the intimate story as if she were sharing it with friends over coffee. Each panel works in concert with the writing to hit emotional notes with extraordinary effectiveness.

Hulls has biked across countries, worked seasonally in Antarctica, and prioritized her particular kind of cowboy freedom, but her telling of it transcends the personal. Her life and feelings are deeply relatable, especially as it shows the ways mothers and daughters can wound each other. In one particularly bright thread, she describes how her mother imagines Hulls's mental illness where it doesn't exist and sends her to a series of increasingly invasive therapists. Although with the best intentions, she causes intense damage.

Hulls steps fearlessly into bleak shades of history and experience. She explores the darkest corners of her own mind, yet she ultimately manages to take the reader on a journey toward light. --Carol Caley, writer

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