In Passing for Human, Liana Finck’s achingly beautiful graphic memoir, the renowned illustrator goes in search of that thing she has lost—her shadow, she calls it, but one might also think of it as the “otherness” or “strangeness” that has defined her since birth, that part of her that has always made her feel as though she’s living in exile from the world. In Passing for Human, Finck is on a quest for self-understanding and self-acceptance, and along the way she seeks to answer some eternal questions: What makes us whole? What parts of ourselves do we hide or ignore or chase away—because they’re embarrassing, or inconvenient, or just plain weird—and at what cost? Melancholy and funny, personal and surreal, Passing for Human is a profound exploration of identity by one of the most talented young comic artists working today.
Recently, Liana spoke with Read It Forward about her different tastes in audio and physical books, how she can’t choose just one favorite bookish genre, and why she’s careful about recommending titles to her dad.
Featured illustation by Lorenzo Gritti
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What’s the book on your bedside table?
One, I don't have a bedside table. I live in a really squeaky apartment and I destroyed my bed and I sleep on the floor. There's no book. I work so hard sometimes, and I can't read when I'm working so hard and it breaks my heart. But I just listened to all of Tana French on audio book. I listen to a certain kind of book on audio. I read a different kind of book when I read. Educated by Tara Westover meant a lot to me this year. It was really good, and I reread Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. Like, I've been rereading it every half year since it came out. It's good on tape, it’s more like fairytale on tape. I don't think it's as dark.
What’s the one book you tell everyone to read?
Oh my goodness. Speedboat by Renata Adler.
Name three characters from literature or authors (dead or alive) that you’d want in your ideal book club?
Kafka, Sebastian Knight, and Elizabeth Hardwick.
What word do you love and why? What word do you hate and why?
I love the word moist because that doesn't get a lot of love. Also the word gross. Just kidding. What do I hate? I hate-love, love-hate, words that are too big, that don't need to be used, like utilize. I'm not actually a grammar nerd who hates those words. It gives me a thrill when I hear them.
What’s the one book you love to give as a gift and to whom do you give it?
Oh I loved 1Q84 at some point. I used to give it to boyfriends and then I realized it was problematic and I stopped giving it, but I love it. I told my dad to read it, and he was really freaked out by some weird sex scenes. That's not what I was recommending when I recommended the book.
Favorite independent bookstores from around the country?
The ones in New York are so dear. Books are Magic, McNally Jackson, Greenlight. I don't want to leave any out. I love Uncivilized Books, that’s a used bookstore. I used to work at the Strand. I think I'm the reason they stopped having employees work in the bag check. That's when they had a bag check, but I think I was framed. I don't think I really lost the bag.
What’s the one book that never fails to delight or inspire you?
Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. Can I mention Alexandra Kleeman's You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine? That book is so incredibly important to me that I can't even talk about it sometimes. I think it's the only book about disordered eating and also it’s post-modern and also hilarious, and it's just all the things.