Graphic novels are often the unsung heroes of the literary world. They are enriched with not only words but with images that help to fill up the gaps in the reader’s imagination. Trying to bring this hidden gem of a genre into the limelight, Singapore based illustrator-cum-writer Debasmita Dasgupta takes her readers on a visual journey with her latest book, Nadya.
Nadya is the poignant tale of a young girl in the throes of her parent’s separation. The story, which starts with the titular character dreaming about her idyllic life with her parents – where they read together, travel together, and spend summer afternoons sprawled on the green lush gardens together –, takes its own sweet time to transport the reader to the picture-perfect life that young Nadya has. The story takes a heartbreaking turn when Nadya realises that her parents are falling apart and life, as she knew it, will never be the same.
The story of a child trying to navigate through a divorce might seem like a complex topic to take on, but for Dasgupta, this was more than just a book. “When I was in primary school, I had a very close friend. I have faint memories of us spending time together and quite a vivid memory of her fading away from my life after her parents went through a divorce,” Dasgupta recalls. She shares how she was too young to understand the significance of the word ‘divorce’ back then but realised that it changed the course of her friend’s life. Thankfully, the art-for-change advocate found closure in her art.
The minute details hidden in the background make the images astonishingly vivid. The bright tones of the frames that Dasgupta draws to display Nadya’s childhood – using her words and her colours – transcends into dull tones that effectively set a gloomy mood. Nadya’s struggle ends up becoming the reader’s struggle. The author reveals that the story’s transitions developed during the writing process and produced many “crossovers between borders, like emotional borders (grief and renewal) and timeline borders (past and present, with a hint of future).” These crossovers result in an amalgamation of narrative forms, textures and colour palettes.
With some pages without any texts, the novel says little yet speaks loud and clear. Behind this achievement was Dasgupta’s resolve to not be preachy or narrate the moral of a story. “If you observe closely, there are many open threads in the story, particularly the ending. It’s not a fairy tale ending where everything becomes wonderful. But there is hope,” she explains. For her, Nadya is a universal story of human resilience.
With a message for readers of almost all ages, Nadya attracts a wide range of audiences. While because of its simplicity in language, anybody can read it few can grasp the complexities and visual metaphors that it presents. Dasgupta feels books help start a conversation — be it with others or with oneself — and hence, wants Nadya to become “that conversation starter”....