Graphic Details: Interview with Ariel Schrag
Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women is the first museum exhibit to explore this unique niche of autobiographical storytelling by Jewish women. The touring exhibit, sponsored by The Forward, features the work of 18 Jewish women artists. The Jewish Women's Archive is interviewing each of the artists about their work and their experience as a female, Jewish graphic artist.
This week's interview is with Ariel Schrag, author of the autobiographical graphic novels Awkward, Definition, Potential, and Likewise, which chronicle her four years at Berkeley High School. Potential, which was nominated for an Eisner Award, is currently being developed into a major motion picture. Schrag is also a writer for the HBO series How To Make It In America, and was a writer for seasons three and four of the hit Showtime series, The L Word.
Q: How did you get into cartooning?
Ariel Schrag (AS): I was obsessed with Disney. And For Better or For Worse. All I wanted to do was draw comics. I loved Calvin and Hobbes. You see the thing you love and you want to do it. Nothing gave me more pleasure than reading comics, so why would I spend my time doing anything other than trying to create comics?
Q: How does your Jewish identity influence your work?
AS: It doesn't especially. I'm half Jewish, the wrong half at that, but I look Jewish (imagine what you will) and I have a Jewish name (first and last) so I FEEL very Jewish. And actually have quite a strong Jewish identity for myself. Plus my family celebrated Hanukkah and Passover. Passover has always been my favorite holiday. I love that there's an elaborate story you spend hours going around a table telling through various songs and acts of eating food. But as far as writing about being Jewish I haven't done it that much explicitly. Though I'm sure there's a certain Jewish sensibility present in whatever I write.
Q. Do you think the experience of being a cartoon artist is different for men and women?
AS: Yes, I do. Because if you're a man you get to go have intercourse with a woman using your penis after you finish drawing comics and women can't do that.
Q: Tell me about your piece in the Graphic Details exhibit. What's its story?
AS: Included in Graphic Details is the one story I've written so far expressly about being Jewish. Or, as the case is, not Jewish enough. I was renting my apartment with my Hasidic landlords and after being shunned by one of them for telling him my mother wasn't Jewish I decided to.... oh... just let the other one think I was totally Jewish. A REAL Jew. A lie. It involved a conspicuously placed menorah, a two year old family Hanukkah card, and a toothbrush with a stars of David design. But it felt so good to belong.
Q: What's next? or What are you working on now?
AS: A novel about a teenage boy. Also, www.invadeeverything.com.