Book Club: April 2024 by Hana Zittel

Book Club
By Hana Zittel
Published Issue 124, April 2024

Impossible People: A Completely Average Recovery Story by Julia Wertz (2023)

Addiction and recovery are often portrayed as a relentless battle back to normalcy, a straight path from the absolute ruin caused by substance use leading to the grueling climb to recovery, one which is forever shrouded with the possibility of relapse. In Julia Wertz’s newest graphic memoir, the slip into addiction was a gradual slide. Masking and managing depression and anxiety with alcohol led to Wertz drinking daily, watching the clock wind down to 5 p.m. to prove to herself it wasn’t a problem, then drinking bottles of wine just to fall asleep. She hid her drinking, visiting different liquor stores or hiding that she was buying so much alcohol by insinuating it was for a party. As a cartoonist who mostly worked from home, her drinking habits were easily concealed from friends and family. But through medical visits and frank conversations with her brother, also recovering from addiction, Wertz began to address her alcohol misuse.

Inside Impossible People by Julia Wertz

When Wertz decided to move towards recovery, she tried a range of methods, checking into a 21-day rehab, therapy and meetings. She struggled through expressing her emotions and challenges with friends and family, but what she found through trial and error, setbacks and successes, was there was not a silver bullet to cure her alcohol dependency. Instead, a mixture of support, meetings and adventures allowed her to slowly find her way back to herself. From leaning into her love of urban exploring to learning comfortable methods of socializing, Wertz moves toward self-acceptance while capturing all of the bumps and setbacks of recovery frame-by-frame in her characteristic clean-line drawings.

Inside Impossible People by Julia Wertz

Wertz’s journey in Impossible People, like so many of her intensely relatable graphic memoirs, is one of the every day, of the relationships that sustain us and the ones that fall apart, all while moving through the mundane motions of life. This graphic memoir is underscored with a story of addition, but it is so deeply a story about continuing to grow up in your 30s, when friendships, relationships, work and life seem to settle in different directions and reality doesn’t always match what you imagined. Impossible People marks another raw, silly and heartfelt peek into the world of Julia Wertz.

Judas Goat by Gabrielle Bates

Gabrielle Bates’ debut book is a shattering collection marked with rich language carrying themes of myth and religion, death and growth. Present throughout is the vivid, unique environment of the American South. Bates is able to paint the intensity of this region with careful words that illuminate each scene she creates. In Ice / she writes, “In pockets / of Alabama / it snows / in spring. / A man plants / a cherry tree / the night / of his daughter’s / wedding / & the deer come / while he sleeps. What’s wild / will never / lie to you / if caught / like this: / a doe, staring, / sapling limbs / half-ground / into splinter-spittle / behind her / inky lips.”

The poems in Judas Goat feel at times holy and otherworldly as she leans on dark biblical themes and fits them to our times. In the title poem, Judas Goat, the goat leads the unknowing sheep to slaughter day after day. “We, of our ends, are perhaps all this oblivious: one goat / trained to live with the sheep, neck-bell jingling / in and out of the slaughterhouse. To the goat, / the shackling pen is no more than another human / room …” Her poems capture the beauty and violence of womanhood, complexity of the human experience and, trickled throughout the collection, the ubiquitous awareness of the inevitability of death. Judas Goat is deeply emotional, and carries unforgettable passages marking a riveting debut collection from Gabrielle Bates.  

Hana Zittel is a librarian at the Denver Public Library in addition to being a librarian at the Denver Zine Librarian. She grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and pretty much just likes being outside with her pup when she has some free time, and reading, that might have been assumed though.

Check out Hana’s March Book Club in case you missed it, or head to our Explore section to see more of her past reviews.