Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Quick Book Review: Bread & Butter

Rating: 4/5

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I didn’t expect this book to be so short, at just twenty four pages. Even still, I loved what little was given and really hope that this continues to be a series, because there’s still so much I want to know about Liana and her story. 

Bread & Butter is a visual snapshot into the life of Liana Caudillo, who moves to the big city of San Francisco, working at a cafe while having bigger ambitions of designing album covers. But the promise of this glorious city, full of new beginnings and art and culture and diverse walks of life, seems to fade in Liana’s eyes as she experiences the day-to-day grind of food service and helping customers, who are often rude, impatient, ungrateful, and talk down to her. It’s especially compelling to see how socioeconomic class and race also come into play. Many of Liana’s customers are upper middle class and white, and seeing Liana as a Latina working a minimum wage food service job, they immediately feel it appropriate to treat her with a lack of respect and oftentimes ask condescendingly if she even speaks English. In this way, this book tackles a number of intersecting topics: the gap between lower and upper middle classes in San Francisco, the immediate judgements and lack of respect that many form toward minimum-wage workers, and what it’s like to work in food industry specifically as a person of color. 

Along with this, the artwork for this book is beautiful and evocative. As soon as I turned to the first page, I was smitten and felt transported to a different place. I could almost hear the sounds of the city and feel its vibrance as I was met with all of these pictures, frame by frame: people walking past, a trolley rolling through Chinatown, a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, a jazz band playing. I loved how Liana talked about the city in this sort of romantic, idealistic way. But then as the story continues, the rose-colored glasses come off and Liana sheds light on what it's really like--that it's not all perfect. I thought the artwork flowed really well with the narrative throughout as she showed this. Still, even at the end of what was a hectic and mentally draining day, Liana goes out for a drink with a co-worker, who reminds her that the city is always changing and that there are still good people in it. It may not completely fit her fantasy, but there's still a lot to love about the city. Liana reflects on this as she returns to her apartment, where she then remembers why she originally came here. She then begins to sketch, not once thinking of cooks or servers. 

Overall, I really love and respect this book for capturing the perspective of a young, working-class Latina. I loved the artwork throughout, and I really admired how the city of San Francisco is almost a character itself and how different characters speak about it. I especially appreciated how the end had this faint glimmer of optimism, with Liana remembering the reason she came to this city and picking up her sketchbook. It leaves you full of hope and wanting more, which is why I really hope this does become a series, and I can't wait for the next installment!

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