Written by: Kate Olivares
At the most basic level, Feast of Fields is graphic novelist Sean Karemaker’s love letter to the protagonist’s mother, Hanne. After a bad day at school, timid and lonely Sean finds comfort in listening to his mother’s childhood memories, taking place in a Danish orphanage. A testament to her resilience and understated strength, this autobiographical graphic novel pays homage to Hanne’s dedication to her family and to herself.
Perhaps the significance of this tale lies in its focus on people and experiences, rather than the emotional traumas. As such, it validates all the other migrant stories that may not seem as splashy or as worthy as an Oscar-winning biopic. Regardless of the seemingly low stakes of Hanne’s life at the orphanage, Karemaker nevertheless conveys its impact. No theses, universal truths, or calls to action came out of this of this story, but if it touches this young boy who eventually grows up to be a cartoonist, it should, and can, matter to everyone else.
Part of this book’s beauty is its ability to reframe a migrant’s story — that is, by not calling it a migrant’s story at all. The journey throughout the narrative is entirely metaphysical; instead of travelling between borders of countries, the story moves between memories, people, and time. True to the graphic novel genre, images remain the centrepiece of the reader’s attention. The monochromatic, slightly disorienting style may take a while to adjust to, and might be a little off-putting and sloppy at first, but the painstaking technique ultimately starts to shine.
While it’s definitely a short read, Feast of Fields is neither shallow nor forgettable. Just like Hanne, its restrained maturity touches far beyond one child’s heart.