Speakin’a’ Brooklyn – Martin Lemelman Update

Sketch & Final Art, "Reading the Forward," from Two Cents Plain ©2010 Martin Lemelman

Martin Lemelman stopped by Kutztown to share his new book, Two Cents Plain: My Brooklyn Boyhood. His graphic memoir published by Bloomsbury, is finally available in bookstores and at Amazon. Like any new parent Martin wants this book to start life on the right foot.

Young Martin as a Katzenjammer Kid.

He talked about the tremendous amount of follow-through an artist or writer needs to do when a new project is birthed. He is doing web interviews, pod-casts, and book fairs in Brooklyn, Montreal, and beyond. Locally, he will be at the Lehigh Valley Barnes & Noble, Oct. 17.  He’ll give a free lecture at the Tenement Museum on N.Y’s Lower East Side, Sept. 28th. The book’s website, designed by Prof. Todd McFeely, includes many preliminary sketches and sample pages for illustration students to consider. Martin is framing the book’s original artwork for exhibition. He is ready for any sort of presentation with Powerpoint slides and posters on foam core.

He sent advance copies to famous writers he admires to get jacket blurbs. One wrote back she didn’t do blurbs, but she liked getting free books, so please keep her on the list. The New York Daily News wanted an interview to run in a special Brooklyn edition in July, weeks before the book would be available in bookstores. He persuaded them to hold off and they recently featured Two Cents Plain with a story. The headline is catchy, Illustrator Documents Nabe’s Transformation.

Early reviews have been splendid: “Memory comes alive in this compelling amalgam of drawing, narrative and archival photography. A prolific illustrator of children’s books and an artist whose work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review …made a major leap into memoir with Mendel’s Daughter (2006), his debut in the genre. Where that well-reviewed volume focused on the Holocaust from the perspective of his mother, this follow-up continues the story of Lemelman’s family through the author’s Brooklyn boyhood. Though there’s an innocence to his tales of working at his father’s candy store—squashing cockroaches, playing pranks and exploring the worlds of the streets… —this was not an idyllic childhood, nor is it rendered sentimentally.” from a starred Kirkus review.

Zara Raab writes in The San Francisco Book Review the story is told “even-handedly, without an ounce of self-pity.”

Now that I’ve had the pleasure of reading Two Cents Plain, I gotta’ say, I feel like I have an advantage over some readers; I can hear Martin Lemelman’s voice on every page. It’s funny, I’m the same age as Martin, more or less, and spent much of my childhood in Elizabeth, NJ, not 20 miles away from Brooklyn. There are phrases in the book like, lime rickey, that I forgot I ever knew. But there are also deeply moving and memorable experiences unlike any I ever had.

Turn on the T.V.— Cartoon, sitcom, war movie, or police story, and you’ll hear stagey Brooklyn accents. These voices don’t always ring true, on the other hand, Martin Lemelman’s voice is authentic.

– K. McCloskey

Video Update: Hear Martin Lemelman’s distinctive voice, in a short video interview from the Georgetown University series, Faith Complex.

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