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Cincinnati Cartoonist Takes Graphic Marker to American Immigration Story

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“Living in the Shadows” Depicts One Family’s Story, Fears, and Hopes in Comic-Strip Form

Cincinnati, OH — Political cartoonist Kevin Necessary of WCPO in Cincinnati just published a ground-breaking comic-strip series about the life of a local “mixed status” American family.

“Living in the Shadows” is an illustrated story, in three parts, that goes deep into real-life experiences of an anonymized family, with mother Elana at the helm, big brother Alejandro (a DACA beneficiary), and two sisters, Adriana and Leticia, native-born American citizens.

On Wednesday, April 11 at 7pmWCPO “9 On Your Side” will broadcast reactions from the family whose lives are depicted in the comic strip, and learn about the process for developing this series.

“Despite telling this family story in such a spare format, Kevin Necessary touches on some very deep issues,” said Lynn Tramonte, Director of America’s Voice Ohio. “He is able to get underneath the generalizations and stereotypes about immigrants that we often see in the media, to illustrate what is truly American about this family. They are bonded by love and experiences.  They help each other. They have a family story that they tell and retell as they carry out their lives; they have struggles and successes, moments of fear and moments of hope. They are also agents of change. This is an inspiring effort at a time when immigration policy in America is especially bleak. I hope that the comic-strip format brings this important story to more people in a direct and impactful way.”

Access “Living in the Shadows: Part 1Part 2, and Part 3” via WCPO Cincinnati.  Below are a few highlights:

  • In Chapter 1 the main character, Adriana, experiences blunt discrimination at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles because of her mom’s immigration status.
  • Chapter 2 shows how Adriana “spent her life coming to grips with being the child of an undocumented immigrant.  The poverty, discrimination, and the constant fear of having her family broken up made her angry at her mother when she was younger… Allowed her to see her as a role model when she was older…And it also gave her a reason to speak out as an adult.”
  • Chapter 3, “Coming to America,” begins with the time Elana lived in Mexico as a young mother while her husband Manuel worked in the United States, and the reasons behind some of the decisions they made.
  • In Chapter 4, they move from North Carolina to Cincinnati.  Manuel’s abuse led the family to break up, and Elana was left to care for her three children alone.
  • In Chapter 5, Elana confronts learning how to do all of the things in society that Manuel used to do.
  • Chapter 6, “Badass mom,” quotes a term of endearment from eldest child Alejandro, and shows the tide beginning to turn.  “Something awoke in Elana.  She would depend on herself.”
  • In Chapter 7, Adriana and her siblings talk about the “fun and fear” they felt growing up in poverty, experiences made them both united and resilient as a family.
  • In Chapter 8, this part of the story continues: “I think I was angry at the situation,” said Adriana, “but at that age you don’t know what it is to be angry at a situation and where life has put you in a moment.  But being angry at a person, I could understand that, like being angry at Mom.”
  • By Chapter 9, “Adriana didn’t have to look far to find a role model who had overcome obstacles of her own.  Mom had spent her life in Cincinnati overcoming obstacles.  She survived domestic abuse, earned an income, and provided for the health care and education of her kids. And Mom saw that she wasn’t the only undocumented immigrant who needed those life skills.  She began reaching out to other women like her, so she could pass on what she learned.  ‘Mom started these groups,’ Adriana says, ‘and actually educated herself alongside these women.’”
  • Chapter 10 is about having hope.  Despite the lack of permanency in their lives, this family has hope and they are actively working to make change.  Adriana hopes that by telling her family’s story, more people will be able to understand and have empathy.  “To see them not as criminals, but as people who have come here through extraordinary circumstances.  People who have worked hard to make a better life.  People who have sacrificed for their families.  People like her mother, Elana.”

Access “Living in the Shadows: Part 1Part 2, and Part 3” via WCPO Cincinnati, and tune in to the station at 7pm on Wednesday to learn how this project was developed.