A mesmerizing, heartbreaking graphic novel of immigrant life on New York's Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century, as seen through the eyes of twin sisters whose lives take radically and tragically different paths.
For six-year-old Esther and Fanya, the teeming streets of New York's Lower East Side circa 1910 are both a fascinating playground and a place where life's lessons are learned quickly and often cruelly. In drawings that capture both the tumult and the telling details of that street life, "Unterzakhn "(Yiddish for "Underthings") tells the story of these sisters: as wide-eyed little girls absorbing the sights and sounds of a neighborhood of struggling immigrants; as teenagers taking their own tentative steps into the wider world (Esther working for a woman who runs both a burlesque theater and a whorehouse, Fanya for an obstetrician who also performs illegal abortions); and, finally, as adults battling for their own piece of the "golden land," where the difference between just barely surviving and triumphantly succeeding involves, for each of them, painful decisions that will have unavoidably tragic repercussions.
"[A] touching look at twins who take distinctly different roads in life, but can't prevent their paths from intersecting . . . Corman's style, inspired by Russian folk art, has a crudeness that highlights the gritty urban environment, but the fluid line-work of her characters adds a touch of delicacy and grace to the proceedings."
"A haunting and often heartbreaking look at Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century, "Unterzakhn" is also a story about women, power, and bodies; entirely too much of it rings entirely too contemporary . . . Corman blends an almost wobbly, liquid style with a real sense of period detail and a flair for the grotesque. She also knows what comics can do well, and one of those things is move forward and backward in time, giving a 200-page narrative the feel of a tightly told epic."
"Corman's attention to period detail and the quirks of Yiddish bring this book to vivid life . . . While she allows for a lot of moral ambiguity in the conventional sense, there seems to be no question which characters are the most humane. The complex route she takes to guide the reader to arrive at these conclusions, the level of detail she includes, and the feelings that the journey evinces are what make this a successful work. ["Unterzakhn" is] a celebration of human kindness in the face of the abyss . . ."
"--The Comics Journal"
"Corman's writing and artwork make for a very energetic combination. Her brushwork is as bold as her sharp narrative. Her vision works well with expressing women's issues, the Jewish struggle, tenement life, and the dreams of her characters, whether thwarted or painfully realized . . . [A] sumptuous graphic novel."
"Here is what is magisterial about "Unterzakhn" it arrives with the force of artistic conviction, the unholy love child of "Love and Rockets" and Isaac Bashevis Singer . . . It is a credit to Corman that yo