In Displacement, New York Times best-selling artist Lucy Knisley presents a touching travel journal of her trip aboard a cruise ship with her elderly grandparents. With fond childhood memories of her grandma and grandpa juxtaposed against the current, exhausting reality being their caregiver, Knisley is forced to confront the mortality of those dear to her.
Knisley’s grandma has dementia, which is getting worse, and her grandpa also needs near constant care and supervision. In contrast to Lucy’s daily routine of caring for an elderly couple, extracts of the grandpa’s journal are peppered throughout. His jotted down experiences of being a pilot in World War II are a sharp reminder of the young man he once was, with his own opinions, memories and life revealed.
Knisley is unflinchingly honest—her love for her grandparents is powerful even when she is gripped with guilt and fear over the many daily decisions she has to make. Her anger at family members who avoid dealing with the realities of her grandparents’ situation is also portrayed, her emotions conveyed not only in sharp dialogue but in the expressive drawings of chosen moments.
Knisley’s previous works have focused on a trip to Paris with her mother (French Milk), her love of food (Relish), and a travel memoir of her adventures in Europe (An Age of License). While travel may be Knisley’s medium, the emotions vary from book to book, and the focus here is very much upon feelings of grief, guilt and compassion rather than youthful adventure.
Displacement is a travel memoir on the surface, but the journey is through time and emotion rather than to any one particular destination. As Knisley struggles with the task of caring for her grandparents, she avoids schmaltz by laying out genuine internal arguments on the page. What could be depressing is lifted by the human moments shown, and the details of art that hint at emotions far harder to convey in text alone.
Displacement comes out on February 8th from Fantagraphics.