Yup, another comic review. This one’s a little personal. As with almost all the books I read, I found this while perusing my local library’s shelves. See, libraries are still useful. This comic is called Two Cents Plain: My Brooklyn Boyhood by Martin Lemelman.
The reason I picked up this book is because, like Martin, I was born in Brooklyn to foreign parents and the Brooklyn I grew up in changed drastically. This comic is Lemelman’s memoir of growing up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn with his Holocaust-surviving Jewish-Polish parents and his brother. Here he describes incidents that happened to his family, his dad’s candy store and how his neighborhood changed.
To many who read this, this is just the typical story of a first generation American growing up in America. To others, this is all too familiar. I may not be Jewish (I’m Italian,) but Lemelman’s life is all too familiar for me. Immigrant parents who gave up lots to start a better life in a foreign land in a neighborhood with people like them. Then, it all changed. Lemelman even said at the end of the comic, “I stopped. I looked. I drove away.”
This is an all too familiar feeling for many people who grew up in Brooklyn. What they remember is now long gone. It’s pretty sad. Many of these people have moved away to New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island, Upstate New York or, like Lemelman, Pennsylvania. Even many of his more private moments will ring true to a lot of people.
That’s why this comic is so powerful. Many people will see themselves in Lemelman and maybe even shed a tear.
The artwork is black and white pencil drawings with some real life objects and photographs superimposed in them. This is one instance where flashy art is unneeded. This simple art style is effective in what it’s trying to do because this really is a simple life. It actually feels more lifelike this way.
Two Cents Plain is an astounding comic that hits home to many people, especially former Brooklynites. It’s well told and will cause many people to bring back some fond memories and even a tear or two. This one did it to me even though I never left Brooklyn.