Murasaki Yamada, "Talk to My Back" (Drawn & Quarterly, 2022)


Manga historian Ryan Holmberg introduces the influential alternative manga artist Murasaki Yamada (1948-2009) to English readers through a scholarly translation of Talk to My Back (1981-1984), Yamada’s feminist examination of the fraying of Japan's suburban middle-class dreams. The manga is paired with an extensive essay by Dr. Holmberg, in which he positions Yamada’s oeuvre within the history of alternative manga and Yamada’s manga within her life. Alternative manga is primarily associated with male artists in the United States, but Holmberg illuminates why that came to be and how that image varies from reality through his examination of Yamada’s oeuvre.

Talk to My Back (Drawn & Quarterly, 2022) portrays a woman's relationship with her two daughters as they mature and assert their independence, and with her husband, who works late and sees his wife as little more than a domestic servant. While engaging frankly with the compromises of marriage and motherhood, Yamada saves her harshest criticisms for society at large, particularly its false promises of eternal satisfaction within the nuclear family.

Ryan Holmberg is a comics historian and translator. He is the author of The Translator Without Talent (2020) and Garo Manga: The First Decade, 1964-1973 (2010). He has edited and translated over two dozen manga, including the 2014 Eisner Award-winning edition of Tezuka Osamu’s The Mysterious Underground Men. His many essays and reviews can be found in such venues as The Comics Journal, Artforum International, and The New York Review. He has advised on exhibitions at the British Museum and the Honolulu Museum of Art, and is currently Senior Lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He can be found on social media @mangaberg.

Amanda Kennell is an Assistant Teaching Professor of International Studies at North Carolina State University who researches Japanese culture and contemporary media. Her book, Alice in Japanese Wonderlands: Translation, Adaptation, Mediation, is forthcoming in 2023 from the University of Hawai’i Press. She consulted on the British Museum’s exhibition on manga, and her work has appeared in the Journal of Adaptation in Film & Performance, the Journal of Popular Culture, Film Criticism, and the Washington Post, among other publications.

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Amanda Kennell

Amanda Kennell is an Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Notre Dame who researches modern Japanese media like anime and manga.

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