8 Great Questions: Jessica Abel

The cartoonist and author on her ideal dinner party featuring Bjork and Atwood, and her dread for a world with only one literary genre.


Every week, millions of fans download This American LifeThe MothSerial, and other narrative radio shows. Using personal stories to breathe life into complex issues, these beloved programs help us understand our world better. Jessica Abel’s Out on the Wire offers an unexpected window into this new kind of storytelling—one that literally illustrates the making of a purely auditory medium. With the help of This American Life‘s Ira Glass, Abel, a cartoonist and narrative radio devotee, uncovers how producers construct these enthralling stories, spilling juicy insider details along the way.

Recently, Jessica gave Read It Forward the scoop on a joyfully food-forward gift book, and how she was inspired by Wonder Woman long before the latest blockbuster incarnation.

Featured Image: Lorenzo Gritti; Author Photo: Alain François

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What’s the book on your bedside table?

I'm in the middle of The New New Journalism by Robert Boynton. It's an incredible collection of behind-the-scenes insights and wisdom from the best writers of narrative nonfiction.

What’s the one book you tell everyone to read?

Locas by Jaime Hernandez—one of the most under-appreciated writers of human relationships.

Name three characters from literature or authors (dead or alive) that you’d want in your ideal book club?

Margaret Atwood, Bjork, and MFK Fisher (I'd want her to cook).

Who would be in your ideal book club?

Myla Goldberg, Jason Little, Matt Madden, Nick Bertozzi, Kim Chaloner, Leela Corman, and Tom Hart. All authors, all great friends, and all have a lot to say that's worth listening to.

What’s the one book you love to give as a gift and to whom do you give it?

Marcella Hazan's Marcella's Italian Kitchen. I learned to cook from this book and love to give it to others who are starting out, getting their first apartments, getting married, that kind of thing. It's such a solid basis in how to think of food, yet still full of love for cooking and joy in eating.

What’s the one book you read as a kid that has stuck with you?

Well, there are a lot of them! But given that I ended up a cartoonist, one of the most influential was a giant collection of 1940s-era Wonder Woman comics that Ms. Magazine put out.

What’s the one book that never fails to delight or inspire you?

Right Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse.

If you could only read one genre for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Oh, that's a tough one. I'd rather not think of a world with only one genre! But if I'd have to pick, it would have to be non-genre naturalistic work, just because there's such a range there. But if it's got to be a genre, I'll go sci-fi.

Cartoonist and writer JESSICA ABEL is the author of two textbooks about making comics, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures and Mastering Comics, written in collaboration with her husband, the cartoonist Matt Madden. She is also the author of the graphic novel La Perdida and a new science fiction comics series called Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars.
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