Jillian Tamaki, 2014 Canada Council laureate – Governor General’s Literary Awards


I would say that This One
Summer is a graphic novel about the time in between
childhood and adulthood. But it is also about parents, and about teenagers
and children, and the tension
in between the two. I would say the book is about
tension, it’s about tension between your summer
life and your real life, about the city and about rural, about men and women,
and husbands and wives, and children and adults, and the tension within
yourself as well. That is the emotional
core but I would also say it is really an attempt to
capture the sense of summer, the melancholy of summer
and the sensory experience of summertime in Ontario. I can’t take complete credit
for writing the book obviously. The book is a co-creation with
my cousin, Mariko Tamaki, but I do consider us
co-creators and I feel like that is the best word
to use in this case because when you are working
with pictures and words and the combination of
the two, the word writing becomes a little
bit less defined. But it is Mariko’s story
that I was lucky enough to put my input into. This is the second book
I’ve done with Mariko. The first book that we
co-created was Skim which was also nominated for
a Governor General’s award. This book was a lot more
complex in a lot of ways. There are multiple age groups
at play within the story, and it was a much more emotionally
difficult book to make. As an illustrator you’re
not generally required to put that much real emotion
into the images you create but for this it seemed
completely necessary that you were going to have to mine
very difficult territory. And I would say that was
the most difficult part of creating This One Summer. I would say that the style
of the book is inspired by the place itself, which is
the Muskoka area of Ontario, where the book is set
and where Mariko and I went to research and take photos and do a fact finding mission. And so I was inspired by the
landscape there and the trees and the water and the beach
and was trying to interpret those sensory elements
into the art style. The most difficult
thing about doing comics is the labor, the time. It is a marathon of drawing and
it is like drawing boot camp. I mean I have probably
drawn those characters hundreds of times
from every conceivable angle and position and emotion. So it is just the labor
to be honest is the most difficult thing about
doing comics in general. Winning the Governor General’s
award is significant to me because it’s an
endorsement of what you are trying to do in life. Comics is a very lowly solitary
endeavour where you are alone working in the
studio every day, alone listening to the
radio or music or whatever, and there is not a lot
of feedback that you get while you’re doing that process. So for somebody to give you
a pat on the back in any way is a nice affirmation
that this crazy thing that you’re doing is worth it.

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