cover image We’re All Just Fine

We’re All Just Fine

Ana Penyas, trans. from the Spanish by Andrea Rosenberg. Fantagraphics, $24.99 (120p) ISBN 978-1-68396-580-0

This slim but quietly profound graphic novel from children’s book illustrator Penyas (Mexique) tells the stories of her grandmothers, moving between the present day and their youth in Francoist Spain. One matriarch, Maruja, recalls a dour upbringing and a marriage of convenience; the other, Herminia, an unconventional childhood and marriage for love. Despite these differences, both their lives were defined and limited by traditional domestic expectations of homemakers. The wife of a doctor whose identity subsumed her own, and now lonely in her old age, Maruja resignedly declares, “All that sacrifice for nothing.” In one subtly effective sequence, Herminia is shown never emerging from the laundry room as her children and husband move behind her, in and out of the panels. But progress comes in glimpses as the world changes. Herminia’s daughters are politically active, and she hides their revolutionary literature from authorities. The widowed Maruja finds newfound freedom and self-expression. As Penyas writes, “There are plenty of love stories, but not so many grandma stories.” The afterword by Esther Claudio provides welcome political context (her thorough analysis of the storytelling is best saved until after readers have had time to study the clue-heavy, distinctive, and charming drawings for themselves). There’s plenty in these women’s lovingly told histories to enjoy unpacking. (Jan.)