Katin, Miriam 1942-
Katin, Miriam 1942-
Born 1942, in Hungary; immigrated to Israel in 1957; immigrated to the United States in 1963. Religion: Jewish.
Children's book illustrator and comic book artist. Ein Gedi Films, Israel, background designer, 1981-90; Jumbo Pictures, MTV Animation, Disney Studio, New York, NY, background designer, 1991-2000. Military service: Israel Defense Forces, graphic artist, 1960-63.
Inkpot Award, Comic-Con International, 2007; Grand Prix de la Critique, Association des Critiques et Journalistes de Bandes Dessinees, for the French translation of We Are on Our Own, 2008.
We Are on Our Own: A Memoir, Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2006.
Sue Smith, Exploring Saltwater Habitats, wildlife illustrations by Cynthia A. Belcher, Mondo Publishing (Greenvale, NY), 1994.
Elizabeth Claire, reteller, The Little Brown Jay: A Tale from India, expanded edition, Mondo Publishing (Glen Head, NY), 1994.
Diane Snowball, Exploring Freshwater Habitats, wildlife illustrations by Cynthia A. Belcher, Mondo Publishing (Greenvale, NY), 1994.
Patti Seifert, Exploring Tree Habitats, wildlife illustrations by Peg Doherty, Mondo Publishing (Greenvale, NY), 1994.
Margaret Yatsevitch Phinney, Exploring Land Habitats, wildlife illustrations by Terri Talas, Mondo Publishing (Greenvale, NY), 1994.
Marcia Vaughan, Hands, Hands, Hands, Mondo Publishing (Greenvale, NY), 1995.
Virginia Dooley, Tubes in My Ears: My Trip to the Hospital, Mondo (Greenvale, NY), 1996.
Scarlett Lovell and Sue Smith, Exploring Mountain Habitats, wildlife illustrations by Robert Noreika, Mondo Publishing (Greenvale, NY), 1999.
Margaret Yatsevitch Phinney, Exploring Underground Habitats, wildlife illustrations by Steven James Petruccio, Mondo Publishing (Greenvale, NY), 1999.
Contributor to comics and anthologies, including The Bride of Monkeysuit, Volume 2, "Mittel Europa Rerun," 2000; Oh to Celebrate!, Volume 4, Drawn & Quarterly, 2001; Viva La Monkeysuit, "Parfait," Volume 3, 2001; Rosetta: A Comics Anthology, Volume 1, "The Seven Spoonfuls of Understanding" and the back cover illustration, Alternative Comics, 2002; In Search of Monkeysuit, Volume 4, "The Ring of Meryem," 2003; Rosetta: A Comics Anthology, Volume 2, 2002, "Theomimesis" and "Bronka, Yonkey, Tzila, Dolek, Shabbetay, Katz, and McNamara," Alternative Comics, 2003; SPX Anthology, "Travels with St. Anthony," 2003; and The Best American Comics, "The List," Houghton Mifflin, 2007.
Miriam Katin has led a peripatetic life. She was born in Hungary in 1942 to Jewish parents. In 1957, she and her family immigrated to Israel where they remained until 1963; then they moved again, this time to the United States. Katin was artistically inclined from childhood, and had served as a graphic designer in the Israeli Defense Forces. She later went on to use her skills to design the background for films, first in Israel, at Ein Gedi Films, and later in New York, where she worked for a number of film companies, including Jumbo Pictures, MTV Animation, and Disney Studios. Katin is also an illustrator, providing the artwork for a number of children's books, such as The Little Brown Jay: A Tale from India by Elizabeth Clare, Hands, Hands, Hands by Marcia Vaughan, and Tubes in My Ears: My Trip to the Hospital by Virginia Dooley. In addition, she is responsible for the art in a series of comics that include "The Seven Sweet Spoonfuls of Understanding," "Theomimesis," "Bronka, Yonkey, Tzila, Dolek, Shabbetay, Katz, and McNamara," and "Mittel Europa Rerun," among others.
One of Katin's most significant works is her first graphic novel, We Are on Our Own: A Memoir. Released in 2006, when Katin was sixty-three years old, it looks back at her childhood and the efforts her mother went through to protect her during World War II. The Nazis were occupying Budapest, and Katin's father was fighting with the Hungarian army. At first, the restrictions on Jews imposed by the Nazis were small: they were forbidden pets, for instance. However, rumors started to circulate that Jews were being taken away, never to be heard from again. Then the order came that all Jews were to report to the ghetto without bringing their belongings. Katin's mother decided it was time to go into hiding. She burned all of the family's personal papers that might identify them or lead anyone to question their whereabouts, and she obtained forged credentials for herself and her daughter before escaping into the Hungarian countryside. There they found a place to stay on a farm, but their appearance had the local Nazi commander suspicious. Katin's mother was forced to become the man's mistress to prevent him from reporting them. When the Russians invaded, chasing the Germans out, the situation became still worse, and Katin's mother fled with her once more. Interspersed between these horrific memories, depicting both the recollections of a fearful child and her mother's reminiscences from later on, are vivid renderings of Katin's life as an adult. She illustrates these sections in color, as opposed to the black-and-white renderings of the past, indicating how her childhood experiences affected her, the choices she makes now for her own family as a result, and her ongoing approach to her religious faith.
Katin's memoir met with favorable reviews. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that, given the extreme subject matter, a more straightforward, text-based narrative might have done more justice to her story. The critic commented that the "episodic approach conveys events with an admirable economy at times, but often just hurries the reader through situations that could have used more explanation." Time reviewer Andrew D. Arnold, however, found the graphic novel to be "an unforgettable tale of a mother's courage in the face of nightmarish cruelty." Arnold went on to praise Katin's artistic choices: "Working mostly in graphite pencil, the monotone palate evokes the grey days of Nazi rule in a past desaturated of color. Instead, Katin uses shading to create detail and rich texture." He concluded: "Even as fiction it would be one of the best stories I've read in the last year, but as a memoir it leaves you speechless." Gordon Flagg stated in Booklist that "Katin's understatement makes the story all the more chilling and heartbreaking," and dubbed We Are on Our Own a "remarkable debut." World Literature Today contributor Rita D. Jacobs put Katin's effort in the same league of literary and intelligent, artistic graphic novels as Art Spiegelman's Maus, which set the standard for works of this nature. Jacobs asserted that "Katin has entered the top tier of graphic novelists," adding: "She expertly establishes narrative through simple panels and then swiftly moves it along or creates energy by breaking out of the frame." A Publishers Weekly reviewer compared her style to that of artists Helen Hokinson and Kathe Kollwitz, depending on whether she is illustrating the prewar beauty of Budapest or the horrors of wartime. The critic concluded that "Katin's art is an impressionistic swirl" and that "the chaos of war is captured in dark, chaotic compositions."
Katin told CA: "I think with my hand; that is, I draw and write and develop the story that way. It is surprising to me how many different ways readers understand my stories."
When asked how she first became interested in writing, Katin responded: "I had stories to tell, but I am not a writer. I can draw, and I felt that comics were a possible method of telling my stories.
"Art Spiegelman's [graphic novel about the Holocaust,] Maus: A Survivor's Tale, gave me the ‘license’ to do work about my background of living through war and the emotional burden of the years after. Other comic artists also had a great influence on me, like Lynda Barry for her freedom of expression and the fearless way she tackles her subjects.
"I hope to create a story that is strong and readable with illustrations that are powerful enough to express what I want to say."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Katin, Miriam, We Are on Our Own: A Memoir, Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2006.
Biography, summer, 2006, Nathalie Atkinson, review of We Are on Our Own.
Booklist, March 15, 2006, Gordon Flagg, review of We Are on Our Own, p. 40.
Comics Journal, number 280, January, 2007, Rob Vollmar, "In the Shadow of Maus," p. 113; number 281, February, 2007, Kenton Worchester, interview with the author, p. 82.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2006, review of We Are on Our Own, p. 335.
Publishers Weekly, March 27, 2006, review of We Are on Our Own, p. 64.
World Literature Today, March 1, 2007, Rita D. Jacobs, review of We Are on Our Own, p. 66.
Comics Journal Online,http://www.tcj.com/ (October 31, 2006), Dirk Deppey, review of We Are on Our Own.
Comics Reporter Online,http://www.comicsreporter.com/ (November 27, 2007), "Miriam Katin Wins BD Critics' Prize."
IComics,http://www.icomics.com/ (January 10, 2008), Greg McElhatton, review of In Search of Monkeysuit.
Lambiek,http://lambiek.net/ (January 10, 2008), biography of Miriam Katin.
Miriam Katin Home Page,http://miriamkatin.com (February 15, 2008).
Montreal Review of Books,http://www.aelaq.org/mrb/ (January 10, 2008), Joel Yanofsky, review of We Are on Our Own.
Time Online,http://www.time.com/ (June 1, 2006), Andrew D. Arnold, "No Need for Sensationalism."