The translation of autobiographical manga has been a wonderful side effect of the overall boom in popularity of manga/anime. The original manga boom in the early 2000s overlooked memoir, but as the market has matured and the comics boom has entered a new phase, memoir is finally being translated in the US, which is a real treat for me. A Life Turned Upside Down is a very sad and graphic memoir that explores the impact of having an alcoholic father, especially when everyone around the child normalizes and enables his behavior. Mariko Kikuchi portrays the long-term effects of a destabilizing and undermining childhood in a blunt and clear manner.
The really heart-breaking part of this book was how normalized her father’s alcoholism was and how everyone around her blamed her and expected her to bear the burden of looking after him, especially after her mother’s death by suicide. Her responsibility to her father and her younger sister ensure that she doesn’t have a real childhood, and she repeats the pattern of abuse with her first boyfriend, another emotionally and physically abusive alcoholic. The arc of the book is hopeful but unvarnished in terms of showing the fallout of the abuse. The art is simple, which makes it especially effective in this case because a lot of emotion is well conveyed with just a few lines. Recommended as a good look into the consequences of alcoholism on the surrounding children, and a complex narrative about guilt and how to construct a life after childhood abuse.
Warnings for suicide, child abuse and neglect, alcoholism, physical and emotional abuse in a relationship, death by cancer.