My first introduction to Lucy Knisley was last year when I discovered her last memoir, Relish. Orbiting around all of her culinary experiences throughout her life thus far, I loved Relish. So I also went back and read her first memoir, French Milk, which wasn't maybe the revelation Relish initially was but I enjoyed it.
Since Knisley is now on my definitely-look-out-for-anything-new radar, I just finished her new release, An Age of License. The title refers to the concept she discovered during her journey in the book: an age of license is a time in which a person, whether by youth or financial resources, or the grace of others who want to help out, or perhaps a simple alignment of the stars, takes the opportunity to travel and discover themselves in the process.
The stars aligned for Knisley when she was invited to Norway to speak at and participate in a comics festival. She also had friends who were also just married and honeymooning in Berlin, a new boyfriend in Stockholm, a friend living in France, and her mother plus her friends vacationing in France. So Knisley set off on an exploration of both these physical places and the options in her life.
I suppose I'm probably biased, since Relish sort of introduced me to and opened up the larger world of graphic memoirs for me, but I will probably always love her illustrations the most. They're simple and elegant, and I want to use the word sweet and I will, despite my concern that it seems like not-quite-the-right-word, because it's still the best I have.
When I read French Milk and read some of the reviews out there while I waited for it to become available at the library, I saw a lot of criticism of Knisley concerning her apparent grand wealth that she must have to travel. An Age of License reminds me a lot of French Milk, in that it involved her mother (to some extent), traveling in Europe, trying to figure out her life, and food. Knisley sort of addresses (not directly) some of this criticism in that she acknowledges that she's lucky to be traveling, and lucky to have some financial resources to do so.
But I feel nervous when I see some of these criticisms. Yes, it does feel like Knisley (and her family) do probably have more financial resources than I personally do, at least, but to criticize a person for using such resources for traveling and experiencing is always deeply faulty to me. We all prioritize. She could use her resources to buy multiple extravagant cars, or travel to Disneyland several times a year, or eat veal for every meal. None of these things are remotely appealing to me, but it doesn't mean I'd have the right to sit in judgement about her choices. And, by the way, her initial trip to Norway was initiated by someone inviting her (and presumably paying her way), to come and speak about and teach others about her art which, by all appearances seems to be something for which she works earnestly and diligently. As I've said in other reviews and other places, others have no idea how hard someone may work, or the sacrifices they may make, to earn the experiences they have.
In any case, my only disappointment in this memoir came towards the end. I'll try not to give spoilers here but let's just say that I'm really looking forward to what I hope will be her next memoir, all about her romance with John, of which you can already see the most up-to-date news on her Instagram (which, in and of itself would likely be considered a bit of a spoiler for the book, so be careful with your link clicking).
Another fun and sweet share from one of my favourite storytellers!