I had a small roller coaster ride of thoughts and feelings about the graphic memoir, Why Is Everybody Yelling? Growing Up in My Immigrant Family? At first, I thought, “Sounds fun.” Then, “Huh, what’s going on?” And “This is slow reading.” With, “Oh, yeah digging this, getting meaty.” Along with several, “If this was fiction nobody would allow such a stereotype!” And finally, “Well that was a ride. And that afterwards was a good roundup.”
Our narrator, Cookie is “the lucky one” of her family: born in the US, after the Holocaust, not having to deal with the issues of the past. But she has new ones: dealing with being Catholic in her converted-to-Catholicism-mother’s Jewish family. Not really knowing her father and yet, still trying to gain his love. Having to live in the shadow of two loving, but much older half-brothers, with baggage of their own. And of course, her mother who seems to love her greatly, but who is also greatly overprotective. Trying to find yourself was never more interesting or odd to read about. Marisabina Russo also created delightful illustrations that capture the spirit of the text.
This book says that Russo had an interesting life. Brought up by a divorced, Catholic mother, (who was born Jewish) and by her various maternal aunts, uncles, grandmother and even her half-brothers, Cookie had issues, questions, friendships, being in her own head, and a relatively good life but with the challenges, bumps, and bruises of growing up. You see the world through Cookie’s eyes and as she grows you start seeing the maturity and understanding she starts to have. And learn the whys of the issues and things that happened to her family and how they directly affect her.
There is a lot going on in the pages of this memoir: the guilt of “being the lucky one born in the US” and the guilt of not being another boy (see the end for a big reveal), the seemingly lack of understanding from Cookie’s mother (but of course, the love) and the dotting on by their mother to her older brothers; especially the oldest. We see the thoughts and emotions of the times (mental health issues in the 1950s, the 1960’s revolutions, the becoming a woman as the country was coming into the modern age). And most importantly Cookie’s relationship with religion with the line that comes near the end of the book that sums it all up: “[her] Jewish blood and Catholic soul.”
This is best for the ages at least 10 and up, but I would be quicker to give to teens and adults. This is not a hard read, but not easy either. I would recommend doing at least a second read as, if you’re like me, you missed a few things that “popped up” in the afterwards that rounds up how her family’s lives turned out.