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Covid Chronicles

Covid Chronicles: A Comics Anthology

This second Covid Chronicles short story collection (that came out a few months after the similarly titled Covid Chronicles that was penned by Ethan Sacks and illustrated by Dalibor Talajić ) is an anthology that incorporates many different authors and illustrators. It gives these creators chances to recount their experiences or share commentary about the pandemic to varying degrees of success.

My favorites:

COVID-19 Diary by Jason Charfield

This first story in the collection kicks off with a cartoony day-by-day diary of the author’s experience when he had COVID-19.

Librarying During a Pandemic by Gene Ambaum & Willow Payne

As a librarian, I was of course interested in how other librarian’s dealt with patrons once they reopened. While I didn’t run into the scenarios illustrated, it was an amusing story.

And This Is How I Leave You by Sean Seamus McWhinny

A poignant recounting of the author’s last days with his mother as she lay dying in a hospital and he was unable to be with her.

Small Acts by Stephanie Pitsirilos & Seth Martel

We can’t save the world, but our small acts of kindness can help. Lovely use of color in one of the best illustrated stories.

My New Normal: Rinse and Repeat by Rob Kraneveldt & Mike Garcia

A woman goes about her new normal routine and all her issues are swept under the rug in a fake blog entry in which she pretends everything went well that day.

Between Two Worlds by Julio Anta, Jacoby Salcedo & Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

Excellent side-by-side comparison of how white people and POC have to deal with authority figures when they start venturing outside during the pandemic. The POC are harassed while whites flaunt the rules with no recourse.

Covid Hardball: World Leaders Step Up To The Plate by Rich Johnson & Eli Neugeboren

Illustrated to look like trading baseball cards, leaders have the facts about their response to the pandemic shared. Trump is vilified (in this story, in addition to a few others throughout the book). Dr. Fauci gets the MVP card.

Same by Jazmine Joyner & John Jennings (the only artist I was familiar with)

A woman locked down in a city apartment begins to experience paranoia and visions. But her cat shows her an alternate way out…

Author/illustrator Rivi Handler-Spitz was given several one page spreads throughout the entire book, and they were always spot on.

Frankly, I was not a fan of this very uneven collection of 63 stories. I’ve read many other anthologies such as Love is Love, Puerto Rico Strong and Where We Live (the best of the bunch), but this book just didn’t pass muster. Many of the stories lacked depth, were trite or were not illustrated well. I hardly recognized any of the contributors, so while I so appreciate their effort and intentions, readers who want a timely and poignant retelling of the horrible pandemic we all have been suffering under should read the Sacks/ Talajić graphic novel instead.

-Nancy

Covid Chronicles

“True stories from the front lines of Covid-19” is the tagline for this somber but excellent collection of ten short stories about the current pandemic.

Published in December of 2020 (before another graphic novel with the same name and more contributors in February of 2021), these timely vignettes utilize the stories that NBC News used online that visualized life for front line and essential workers early in the pandemic.

These personal accounts span the globe, giving us intimate looks at people affected by this terrible world-wide crisis. Often times people become numb to mass suffering (which I first noticed during the 2004 tsunami) but connect with individual stories. Paul Slovic, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, explains: When numbers simply can’t convey the costs, there’s an infuriating paradox at play. Slovic calls it psychic numbing. As the number of victims in a tragedy increases, our empathy, our willingness to help, reliably decreases. This happens even when the number of victims increases from one to two. (Vox.com, September 5, 2017– written well before this pandemic)

The book begins with a foreword by actress and activist Alyssa Milano who warns that we will not “enjoy” these stories, instead they are to be “experienced”. And that proved to be very true- they were difficult but necessary stories that showed humanity in the midst of sorrow. The following ten accounts were interviews that Ethan Sacks the comic book author, and former journalist for the New York Daily News, conducted with acquaintances and then branched out to other people willing to share their stories and photos for the artist Dalibor Talajić to refer to when creating his evocative illustrations. The art was deceptively simple, yet conveyed great emotion.

The ten stories varied in locale (US, China, Mexico, Canada, Italy) with a mix of stories about medical staff, patients and researchers. There was an opera singer in Italy that went viral (check YouTube video at end of post), a man visiting family in Wuhan and having to stay for four months vs a few days, a street medic helping during BLM protests in Tulsa (I found the behind-the-scenes prep very inspiring), a journalist who finds out during the interview that the mother doesn’t know her adult son just died, doctors making tough calls and scientists tracking the early spread of the disease.

As the foreword warned, I did not enjoy this book, yet I am so glad I read it. It brought back memories of my anguish of having my mother hospitalized twice last summer (not with Covid) and not being able to visit her in the hospital. But it also reminded me of the kind healthcare workers who helped me speak to her daily with phone and video calls. There is a lot of kindness in the world, and this book shines a light on people who have stepped up to help during this terrible time.

-Nancy

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