Tag Archives: family

Not in Our Name: Against US Aid to the Massacre in Gaza

12 Jan

I drew this diary comic over the summer–some folks have seen it since it was in the collection from Sangría Editora, “Not in Our Name: Against US Aid to the Massacre in Gaza/Contra la ayuda de los Estados Unidos a la masacre en Gaza” (you can download the e-book for free at the link). In a rather indirect way, I am putting it online now because of the attacks on the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo–because I think their comics are racist and Islamophobic and I nevertheless support the right of journalists and critics and artists to produce whatever they feel like saying whether or not I agree. The best things I’ve read so far have been “Unmournable Bodies” by Teju Cole in the New Yorker, and this smart, pointedly offensive comic by Joe Sacco. Additionally, tons of folks are pointing out in blogs and on social media the ways in which so-called world leaders are rallying around the cry for freedom, liberty, free speech etc., often to recuperate their own violence against these very ideals. This also is a time to remember cartoonists around the world, particularly Arab and Muslim cartoonists, like Naji el-Ali, who have been targeted for their critique, or have been killed senselessly in the rippling violence that is loosely labelled the War on Terror.





Coffee with Ilse

27 Jul


This piece will be on display at OQ Coffee in Highland Park, NJ starting August 11th!


Video sketch–The End of a Perfect Day

30 Mar

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 8.57.34 PM

I’ve been playing around a lot with digital copies home movies taken primarily by my great grandfather before and after World War II, mostly in Germany and Belgium. I have been really taken especially by the juxtaposition in post-war vacation footage, between footage of my Oma and her children (my grandfather and great aunt) hiking, kayaking, sightseeing etc., and scans of the bombed ruins of European cities, beginning to be rebuilt. Most jarring for me was the footage of sex workers posing for my great-grandfather’s video camera, amidst the rubble. I’ve been playing with that footage and this is what I came up with today:

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 9.03.53 PM


skin–playing with brushes

1 May

I recently started drawing a piece about physical memory that I ended up not finishing–I’ll probably return to it in another guise at some point–and decided to ink the first two panels to play with some different styles.

Like many people invested in old things (thinking of course of garçonnière), I love the history of objects, the way they carry memory and affect across time and space. One of my most treasured possessions is this gold bangle that I inherited from my Oma–one of a set of seven, for the seven days of the week that my Opa loved her. During WWII, they were imprisoned in an internment camp in France which was bombed. My grandfather, a toddler at the time, was playing with the bracelets in the dirt when the bombs started to fall, and in the haste of their escape, my Oma always said, she lost her “Sunday”. This was a story we grew up with–part of my family mythology. When I was given the bracelet, and slid it over my hand, I couldn’t imagine how they even got them off my Oma’s wrist. I always imagined them as a part of her body. So that’s what I had started drawing about.

Solidarity in struggle on this International Workers Day, to everyone on strike and everyone stuck at work, and to comrades fighting for their lives, like Cece McDonald.


Erich Levi

21 Dec

My great-grandfather, Erich Levi, was the playboy son of a wealthy German Jewish businessman, and an amateur heavyweight boxing champion who, according to my Oma, once beat Max Schmeling in the ring. My Oma and Opa met in Cologne, where Ilse was staying because of her mother’s hospitalization due to a bite from a lederhosen-wearing monkey at a cabaret (seriously). Ten years her senior, Erich opened a sausage factory in Paris to be near my Oma while she was finishing school at the Sorbonne. After he proposed, Ilse’s parents took her on a hastily arranged holiday cruise to try and convince her not to marry him, but he showed up at every port of call.

Although generally known to be an affable and charming guy out of the ring, Erich was not shy about his political opinions. He and his brother Kent often went to try and break up local Nazi Party meetings, loudly commenting from the back row until their heckling escalated into confrontations. At one such meeting, Kent and my Opa started a fight that cleared the place out, however, on particular sallow-faced officer engaged with extreme fury and Erich Levi the boxer took his gloves off (metaphorically). The Nazi officer that got the shit kicked out of him that day turned out to be Joseph Goebbels, who never forgot him as he rose to become the propaganda leader for the Nazi Party. It became dangerous for Erich to stay in Germany, and he and my Oma left for Antwerp, Belgium, where they were married on December 19th, 1935 and had two children before the Nazis invaded in 1940.

Ilse Halpert

20 Dec

Aug. 23, 1914-Dec. 19, 2010

My great-grandmother, Ilse Halpert, passed away on December 19, 2010, two days after my 22nd birthday. She was 96 years old. My picture of my Oma’s life is incomplete—comprised of the same family stories told over and over until they took on the air of legend, and the hilarious circumstances of being an awkward teenager with a 90 pound European aristocrat for a great-grandmother. By the time I met her, she was a sort of impish, tiny impeccably made-up old woman with bright blue eyes and a condo in Deerfield Beach. She loved pelicans because they are “the saddest birds” and told me that I could stay slim, even with my sweet tooth, if I ate only ice cream for supper. Oma always told stories with a flair for the dramatic, like biblical creation stories with triumphant flourishes. And, without argument, she had a lot of material. To say that my Oma was a Holocaust survivor is certainly true, but I don’t think it captures the extent of this incredible woman’s story, or the reason why she has inspired me, and continues to inspire me after her death. She was a person who refused to let anyone, even a dictator, define her life or the lives of those she loved.

In 1940, when the Nazis invaded Belgium, all Jewish men were made to go register with the new Nazi regime. My great-grandfather (Erich Levi), his brother-in-law (Erick Kahn) and father-in-law (Jacob Kahn) had left Germany in 1938, right before Kristallnacht. But Hitler’s regime followed them to Antwerp, and they were taken from their homes to a prison camp in St. Cyprien, France.

As the bombs fell, my great-grandmother, Ilse Levi, tried to load her two young children, mother, and nine-months-pregnant sister-in-law, along with the family valuables, into her Mercedes Coupe and drive them to England. They got stopped at the border and sent to a “refugee” camp in Ampleteuse where, as my Oma told us time and time again, they were only given burnt chickpeas to eat and had to sleep in a barn with hundreds of other “refugees,” mostly Roma.

However, a bomb caught the roof of the barn on fire and in the chaos, my Oma and her family ran. Back in Antwerp, with the help of a neighbor who was a member of the Belgian Red Cross, my Oma got false papers and a Red Cross uniform. With the neighbor’s help, she was also able to get a car and driver, and enough gasoline to make it to St. Cyprien–almost to the Spanish border. Once there, she was able to use her authority as a Red Cross nurse to see her husband, brother, and father under the guise of a “medical examination,” and with the assistance of the French Resistance, and a dug-out passageway, they escaped the camp. The Kahns returned to Belgium, but Erich was still a wanted man because of his political activism, so he remained in France, hidden by nuns in the Resistance. My Oma was actually caught in Perpignan, France and imprisoned, but was somehow rescued by the nuns and reunited with Erich and her children. Still dressed in a high fashion slim-cut skirt and heels, my Oma walked with her family through the night, across the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. They arrived at Ellis Island in New York City in 1941, where my great-grandfather changed the family name from Levi to Leeds.



28 Nov

this is an embarrassingly bad video, but everyone was too drunk to help me make it the night before, so i had to do it quick with my crappy camera stuck on top of a cardboard box on top of the toilet before going to my folks for thanksgiving.

i decided to shave my facial hair because i didn’t want it to be a topic of conversation or argument when i came home this weekend for thanksgiving and my grandmother’s memorial service. there were about 40 people at our house and i just decided i couldn’t deal with it. i don’t like the feeling of day-old stubble on my chin, it itches and is uncomfortable but is better than the feeling of residue and the irritation and break-outs from waxing. also there is something about the process that i enjoy, maybe because of the perception of gender transgression in a female person shaving their face, even if it is ultimately for the purpose of passing. which is also why i am posting this video, despite it’s roughness…i suppose i’m interested in the dialectic between the desire to pass and the desire to transgress and intentionally not pass. more on this later…

i shaved my beard because i didn’t want to talk about it, but of course my mother still brought it up. she wants me to get laser hair removal. i was pretty proud of myself that i told her that i didn’t want to, because i like my facial hair. i’m sure this is going to continue to be an ongoing argument. but shaving at least lessens the amount of familial nagging i receive, and does not preclude the possibility of growing my facial hair back.

which i am going to do.

back to comics probably on sunday, when i have access to a scanner.

❤ j.bee