Siberiak: My Cold War Adventure on the River Ob

Jenny Jaeckel. Raincloud (Ingram Content Group, dist.), $22 paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-941203-04-0
In a graphic novel originally self-published by the author in 2011, Jaeckel recalls her participation in a remarkable cultural exchange at the height of U.S.–Soviet tensions in the 1980s. Along with 24 other American high-school students, Jaeckel joined a group of Soviet teenagers to cycle, row, and raft down Siberia’s river Ob in a trip meant to further peace. In simple, pared-down b&w cartoons, Jaeckel creates a cast of human-animal hybrids, giving the Americans long, floppy ears and the Russians neat, cropped ears and sharper snouts; throughout, she records discoveries about the ways her Russian counterparts are either unexpectedly similar to Americans (they love the Beatles) or unlike them (boys and girls display easy, unself-conscious physical affection toward members of their own sexes). Jaeckel documents a kaleidoscope of impressions and perceptions, including her own small contributions toward international relations, as when she’s confronted by four grim-faced grandmothers, greets them in tentative Russian, and is rewarded with broad grins. With an emphasis on dialogue and interior reflection, it’s an honest, closely observed account that readers—especially those with an interest in Russia—will find fascinating. Ages 18–up. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/06/2014
Release date: 11/01/2014
Genre: Children's
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