Queen of Snails: A Graphic Memoir. Maureen Burdock. Graphic Mundi. 2022. pp 228. $25.95
Towards the end of our chat, we landed on a panel (above image) in Maureen Burdock’s new graphic novel, Queen of Snails, that found her younger self, all of eighteen, looking relieved and renewed. In fact, that moment in the narrative was filled with tension but, at the same time, one could read into that face a great deal of wisdom after having traveled so many miles. This younger version of herself was coming to the end of a phase in her life.
I had suggested that the panel had a relaxed feeling to it and Maureen offered a wonderful response: “I’m learning movement. And just being on the path. I had sort of lost my path from abuse and I find it again here. It’s not an easy path. It’s a twisty winding and steep path. I’m on my bicycle and I’m moving. The act of moving, whether it’s the body or a paint brush, is powerful. It’s a reclamation, also a way to engage with community. Whether it’s by walking, bicycling or even driving, you’re on paths that others have created before, for you. You’re participating in something that was laid down before you got there. And you’re leaving tracks behind for people to follow that come after you. And the same is true of art and writing.”
And so, with that in mind, I hope you seek this book out, made up of a series of paths, as I suggest during our conversation. A lot of the process involved in creating a full-length graphic novel is about building up sequences that, bit by bit, are aligned with other sequences. It’s one moment that reverberates and connects with another moment similar in ways to what happens in other mediums. Burdock is in command of her medium conjuring up what’s needed to tell and share a story about herself that connects back generations. This is a story of trans-generational trauma.
If Burdock’s mother had not been snatched up at the age of seven and displaced from her home, she would most likely not have ended up doing the very same thing to her daughter. Patterns take hold and they are hard to break. Trauma is entrenched at the cellular level. As Burdock explains in her book, to come to grips with trauma, you must dig deep: “Writer and cultural critic Walter Benjamin refers to deep memory work as a kind of excavation–archeological, geological, ongoing. I needed to go down below, to find the buried detritus of the past, to trace the fissures and blind thrust faults haunting my psyche.”
One of the best takeaways for me from our conversation is when I got a glimpse into the creative process when I asked Maureen about the title. I had noticed that in another book, the anthology, Covid Chronicles (also published by Graphic Mundi) there’s a mention about her PhD dissertation, The Baroness of Have-Nothing. Well, that was the title of what came to be this graphic novel. At first, the plan had been to focus on her family and the difficulty they had with coming to terms with Germany’s Nazi past. It was only later that it became clear that this was also be a process of self-examination.
Queen of Snails is published by Graphic Mundi. It is one of those special graphic novels that seems to encompass everything with a unique and singular vision.