Yasmin Golan’s father left his native kibbutz to live the American Dream. But it eventually became clear that the American Dream was back on the kibbutz.
“It’s really a story of reverse immigration narrative,” says Golan, 30, in an interview from her home in San Francisco. “It’s not the story of someone who leaves poverty and comes to America and makes it. It’s the story of someone who had a pretty good standard of living on a kibbutz, and comes to the U.S. and becomes a working-class laborer.”
This realization, which Golan came to on a visit to her father’s kibbutz, Gan Shmuel, about a decade ago, eventually formed the basis for “My Father,” a 20-page minicomic written and illustrated by Golan in stark black and white.
A chef by trade, Golan has been making minicomics in her free time for the past two or three years.
Minicomics are self-published comic books sold by their creators, usually online and at comic and alternative press shows. Golan sells hers online (at milkntea.etsy.com) and at a handful of stores in San Francisco, Portland, Chicago and Los Angeles.
She will also be appearing at San Francisco Zine Fest this weekend, Aug. 22 and 23, and at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco on Oct. 17 and 18.
Golan’s minicomics take her anywhere from a few months to a year to create. The story comes first — her background is in poetry and writing, but “I felt that no one really reads poetry,” she says wryly. “I look at minicomics as a short story format, but it works flexibly for me in terms of poetry and prose.”
After the story is written, she begins the illustration, which she does with a black brush-tip ink marker in a style that is often reminiscent of woodblock printing. “Right now my illustration style is really primitive,” she says. “I’m just trying to convey the images that inspired the story in the first place in my mind.”
When the illustrations are done, Golan assembles the comic herself, and has a cover silkscreened in color.
“My Father” took Golan almost a year to complete. With just one line of text per page, the comic tells the story of her father’s visit to his former home on the kibbutz near Hadera, and of Golan’s impressions of kibbutz and communal life.
Golan’s parents met on the kibbutz — her mother had come from her native Brooklyn in her late teens to experience something similar to the ’60s-style commune.
After becoming disenchanted with the rightward shift of kibbutz politics in the early ’70s (and the limitations of free speech in the socialist culture), the couple moved to Los Angeles, where Golan was born. They became gardeners and janitors, living in what Golan calls an “artistic, hippie environment.”
Visiting her father’s kibbutz in her 20s “was an interesting experience, because I was basically comparing his life and the standard of living he had in the United States to the one he had left behind in Israel,” Golan says. “When I made the book and I showed my father, he laughed and said, ‘I guess I’m one of the only Israelis I know that left a better standard of living behind in Israel for a lower standard of living in the United States.’ ”
Golan’s other minicomics — including “Maids’ Rooms, Paris, 2002” a look at the Parisian practice of having maids living on the sixth floor of fancy apartment buildings, and “The Kitchen,” a collection of stories from current and former restaurant workers — also touch on the social politics of the working class. Her next comic will be a complement to “Maid’s Rooms” — another story about “the underbelly of Paris.”
“I’m drawn to stories with an emotional edge to them,” Golan says. “It’s all about what I feel like working on next. With ‘My Father,’ I felt like the [comics] I had done so far weren’t personal in any way, and I wanted to do something personal. And now that I’ve done that, I feel like I can go back to other types of storytelling.”
Yasmin Golan will be at San Francisco Zine Fest, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 22 and 23, at the S.F. County Fair Building, Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park.