Siberiak: My Cold War Adventure on the River Ob
Print Distributor: Small Press United
Cover Design: Josue Menjivar & Fresh Brewed Illustration
Publisher: Raincloud Press
Published November 1st, 2014
Purchase Online or order from your favorite bookstore.
From the back of the book:
It’s 1988, two years before the end of the Cold War; the US and the USSR hold the world at nuclear ransom. Meanwhile, on the ground, grassroots organizing is bring American and Soviet youth together on missions of peace. What can a group of teenagers, on a raft on Siberia’s Ob River, hope to accomplish? Told in bold black and white images, Jenny Jaeckel’s graphic memoir Siberiak is a sensitive, humorous coming-of-age story suitable for ages 16 and up.
Jenny Jaeckel’s graphic memoir Siberiak With sensitivity and humor, Siberiak tells the tale of one young person’s journey of discovery—a coming of age during one unique historical moment.
Publisher’s Weekly Review:
In a graphic novel originally self-published by the author in 2011, Jaeckel recalls her participation in a remarkable cultural exchange at the height of U.S.–Soviet tensions in the 1980s. Along with 24 other American high-school students, Jaeckel joined a group of Soviet teenagers to cycle, row, and raft down Siberia’s river Ob in a trip meant to further peace. In simple, pared-down b&w cartoons, Jaeckel creates a cast of human-animal hybrids, giving the Americans long, floppy ears and the Russians neat, cropped ears and sharper snouts; throughout, she records discoveries about the ways her Russian counterparts are either unexpectedly similar to Americans (they love the Beatles) or unlike them (boys and girls display easy, unself-conscious physical affection toward members of their own sexes). Jaeckel documents a kaleidoscope of impressions and perceptions, including her own small contributions toward international relations, as when she’s confronted by four grim-faced grandmothers, greets them in tentative Russian, and is rewarded with broad grins. With an emphasis on dialogue and interior reflection, it’s an honest, closely observed account that readers–especially those with an interest in Russia–will find fascinating.
The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books (BCCB) Review (Recommended Grade Level: 10-12)
This graphic novel–format memoir explores a young woman’s peacekeeping and goodwill group trip along Siberia’s Ob River in 1988. While thrilled to have been chosen, Jenny quickly learns that she isn’t prepared for such a massive adventure. After several days of trekking, traveling, and endless introductions, though, the shy girl gathers a few close pals and breaks out of her shell enough to absorb her incredibly beautiful (and lucky) trip. Text-heavy panels share space with scenes wherein the protagonists are portrayed as simply drawn animals with expressive features; while the use of contrasting white space and dark shading is effective in reinforcing the narrator’s frequently shifting perspective, there is a lot to absorb in many panels given the small text and overall visual darkness. Even so, the openness of the Russian people Jenny’s group encountered is instantly clear in the depiction of the residents’ faces, and it is obvious that their easy generosity and acceptance were standout memories for Jaeckel. While her adult perspective occasionally peeks through, particularly in the slightly weary acknowledgment that her group didn’t do as much as they believed to alter the course of the Cold War and American/Russian relations, a raw feeling of authentic isolation pervades the novel as Jaeckel frequently indicates the ways in which her social awkwardness limited her own experiences. Teens might not know much about the Soviet/American relations at the time, but there is enough context woven seamlessly into the early sections that they’ll be up to speed and better able to absorb what an unusual trip this was. -AS
Author Cindy Sheehan’s Review: