I saw My Alcoholic Escape from Reality on a list of the best graphic novels of 2021, and the novelty of it caught my attention. An autobiographical manga artist is hospitalized for pancreatitis thanks to her alcoholism, then decides to make an autobiographical manga about this experience as well. I admittedly wasn’t familiar with her other work, but I do have a fondness for seeing writers examine and expel their own demons through the process of writing about them. Sometimes it can feel disingenuous, like a cheap way of garnering attention and sales, but I don’t think this is an example of that.
Kabi is very transparent about the fact that she really wanted to step away from autobiographical work for her mother’s sake, and she talks in the manga of how she really plugged on trying to write fiction for the first time during and around the period she was hospitalized. However, the deep need to tell this particular story from her life kept pulling her back; she feared the negative pushback from such an admission of failure and vulnerability. Thought people would see her differently. After many failed attempts at fiction, though, she comes to realize this is what will break her out of her rut. And then the manga… kinda ends.
Throughout the manga, I was expecting some personal growth to occur. For this hospitalization to be a wakeup call that changed her life drastically in some way for the better. Perhaps that’s me selfishly wanting things to be tied up in a neat bow, like you come to expect from reading works of fiction primarily, but I was a bit bothered by how she didn’t seem to learn a single thing from any part of her experience. She ignores the doctor’s advice repeatedly, refusing to adjust her habits according to her new normal, among other things. And… that’s the note we end on. Is it realistic that a person in her situation might simply continue on as if nothing ever happened in the first place? Of course. Though does that make for a satisfying read? Not at all.
There’s something compelling about seeing people at their most vulnerable, which kept me reading, yet I think that was the only thing dragging me along. That and it being such a quick read that it would feel silly not to complete it. So, if you want to see a realistic portrayal of what many go through when subjected to a wakeup call, which is to turn back over and pretend they didn’t hear it, I guess My Alcoholic Escape from Reality is for you.