Little penguin at a computer from Will Betke-Brunswick's graphic novel memoir "A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feeling." Image: Tin House Books.

EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW: ‘A Pros & Cons List For Strong Feelings: A Graphic Memoir’

Illustrator and cartoonist Will Betke-Brunswick’s debut graphic memoir A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings comes out November 15, 2022, and The Mary Sue is proud to present an exclusive sneak preview of their work. This novel bounces back and forth between Will’s life as a child and as a sophomore in college, reflecting on moments with their mother as she’s diagnosed with cancer. Part of the synopsis reads:

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They only have ten more months together, which Will documents in evocative two-color illustrations. But as we follow Will and their mom through chemo and hospital visits, their time together is buoyed by laughter, jigsaw puzzles, modern art, and vegan BLTs. In a delightful twist, Will portrays their family as penguins, and their friends are cast as a menagerie of birds. In between therapy and bedside chats, they navigate uniquely human challenges, as Will prepares for math exams, comes out as genderqueer, and negotiates familial tension.

Little penguin coming out to their parents on being genderqueer from Will Betke-Brunswick's graphic novel memoir "A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feeling." Image: Tin House Books.
(Tin House)

While the comic has all the humans represented by many birds, the stories and little expressive details make this feel so real. This is going to sound strange, but as I was reading an advance copy, there was a certain point when I just forgot that I was reading their story via a family of penguins. Betke-Brunswick explained that recreating their family as penguins was intentional, as it allowed them a comfort range in illustrating the more painful aspects of their life, and penguins “also free [them] from gendered expectations of human bodies—most of us don’t look at a penguin and think ‘girl’ or ‘boy.'”

Little penguin telling their mom their scared of going on the bus from Will Betke-Brunswick's graphic novel memoir "A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feeling." Image: Tin House Books.
(Tin House)

Ahead of the book’s release, they stressed that with all the grief (further intensified by Covid-19), there’s a need for many to process it all.

I hope that readers take away some comfort and humor reading about my experience of my mom’s illness and death. I hope people can relate through moments like two different friends bringing over two different types of twice baked potatoes when she died, or memories of my mom handing me math problems to do on the bus to calm my anxiety.

A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings by Will Betke-Brunswick is up for pre-order now.

(featured image: Tin House)

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Author
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.