The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, by Peter Sis

The WallSis’s graphic-novel-memoir describes his youth in communist Czechoslovakia and the effects of government oppression, from his childhood in the 1950s until his emigration to the U.S. in 1984.

The artwork is impressive, dense pen-and-ink line drawings in black and white with splashes of color. It makes use of graphic-novel sequential panels and montages when appropriate, but is generally written more like a picture book or heavily illustrated nonfiction book, with full-page spreads and captions at the bottom. As beautiful as the artwork is, I most liked the excerpts from Sis’s journals, which expand on the brief captions.

There’s humor to offset the grim subject matter, and the book moves easily between the personal and the political. It works well as a personal and easy-to-read introduction to the Cold War and life under the communist regime.

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