cover image Heavyweight


Solomon J. Brager. Morrow, $25.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-063-20595-6

Pinko cartoonist Brager’s eye-opening graphic memoir debut recounts their wealthy Jewish family’s escape from Nazi Germany. The heavyweight of the title refers to Brager’s great-grandfather, boxing champion Erich Levi, as well as the collective weight of history. Brager grows up with a standardized narrative of the Holocaust, but comes to understand that Germany’s genocidal colonial exploits in Africa benefited their family and served as a training ground for German violence. Throughout the narrative, Erich remains a cypher; much of the detail comes from his wife Ilse’s Shoah Foundation testimony. A combination of money, strategy, luck, and a few kind soldiers enabled their respective families to make their way through Europe and eventually reach the U.S. Quoting Primo Levi and such radical Black scholars as Ralph Bunche, Brager notes that a tenet of fascism is to rob victims of their innocence. “A lot of people are scared of the Holocaust losing its special, sacred, incomparable status,” Brager writes, “as though we need to diminish or obscure other historical crimes to properly remember.” By contrast, Brager compels readers to look at atrocities in the world around them. Brager is trans and queer; some of the more lighthearted scenes show their partner supporting their research and at times trying to pull them back from the depths of obsession. Stylized portraits of Brager’s relatives are interspersed with more realistic, moody replications of photographs. This brilliant and incisive work takes stock of the intermingled horror, humor, and pathos of history. Agent: Aemilia Philips, Stuart Krichevsky Literary. (June)