19 Jan / Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap, illustrated by Mari Araki
“Dear Mr. Jean Paul Sartre, I know that you are dead and old and also a philosopher. So, on an obvious level, you and I do not have a lot in common.” Thus begins 15-year-old Tina’s class project for her English Honors elective on existential philosophy. And what an angst-ridden, beguiling, contemplative, delightful exploration of teenage-hood it proves to be.
Tina has just started the second half of her sophomore year at Yarborough Academy, “just a boring school started by some guy who died eons ago.” She’s “a pretty good student. A decent violin player. And a bit of an intellectual.” She has two older (overachieving) siblings – her architect-trained artist sister, her internet wife-seeking surgeon-to-be brother – who, now well into their 20s, are dealing with their own self-discovery. To the “question I get asked the most … What are you, REALLY?” she answers “I’m an Alien (But my parents are Indian.).”
In just six short months (eight if you count the “Epilogue”), Tina’s high school-centered life goes through some existentially significant changes. She loses her best friend to “a new group of friends with whom she could discuss slutty clothes and cheesy poetry,” has her first date and first kiss (sort of twice), gets cast as the lead in the school play, falls in love, gets lovesick, and fights off what she calls “CEM or Chronic Existential Malaise.”
Lest I’ve somehow caused you to think even for a millisecond that this is your same-old, same-old teenage tale, please let me dispel any such misconceptions: creators Keshni Kashyap (who is also a filmmaker, and making her publishing debut here) and Mari Araki are far too clever and original for that. How else could they combine Krishna, a Samoan Mormon convert, “tacky pieces of art like statues of white people doing ballet and kissing,” Rashomon, Camus and Kierkegaard, skateboards, nirvana, and horse tranquilizers to get such stellar results?
Readers: Young Adult, Adult