cover image My Picture Diary

My Picture Diary

Fujiwara Maki, trans. from the Japanese by Ryan Holberg. Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95 (284p) ISBN 978-1-77046-662-3

In this underground manga first published in 1982 in Japan, appearing in English for the first time, Fujiwara chronicles a harrowing year of her marriage to legendary alternative cartoonist Tsuge Yoshiharu in candid illustrated diary entries. Fujiwara began the diary in 1980 as a gift for the couple’s young son, Shōsuke, and the early pages focus on family adventures: scenic walks, preschool activities, and trips to junk stores for the oddball antiques both Tsuge and Fujiwara love. From the outset, however, grim details creep in: Fujiwara is in recovery from uterine cancer, Tsuge (who is eventually diagnosed with anxiety) seems to spend more time sleeping than working, and Fujiwara’s efforts to reach out to her husband are met with indifference or abuse. While Tsuge’s manga from this period are filled with violent fantasies and dark nights of the soul, his wife’s diary depicts the mundane labor necessary to support his artistic navel-gazing. “I’m usually too busy with chores to be in the least bit metaphysical,” she reflects. Her cleanly inked illustrations are sometimes childlike, but often alive with carefully observed detail. She particularly excels at drawing children, and her relationship with Shōsuke is a ray of light through the dark clouds of her marriage. Decades after it was drawn, this glimpse behind the curtain of a troubled artistic relationship remains vital and resonant. (Sept.)