Author of the week
Not many people reach for sketchbooks when disaster strikes, said Sam Whiting in the San Francisco Chronicle. But the day after Brian Fies and his wife fled an epic 2017 wildfire that engulfed their Santa Rosa, Calif., home, Fies visited a Target to buy necessities and walked out with socks, underwear…and a 70-page drawing pad. “Even before I knew my house was gone, I knew I was going to be writing about it,” says the 58-year-old cartoonist. The blaze, which burned for 23 days, killed 44 people and destroyed 8,000 buildings. When it had been partly contained, Fies posted an 16-page online comic whose stark portrayal of living through the disaster was soon viewed by more than 3 million people. A Fire Story, his new book, is a more detailed account, weaving together his tale with those of five other survivors.
Fies, a former reporter, never doubted that using his experience with comics was the way to capture this story and its powerful emotions, said Katie Kilkenny in PSMag.com. “When a comic’s really working right,” he says, “the reader absorbs the story before they even know they’ve read it.” He particularly hoped to capture the way Santa Rosans, both rich and poor, put aside their own losses because they wanted to help neighbors they believed had suffered worse. “We certainly felt that, my wife and I,” he says. But as the Fieses prepare to move back into their nearly fully rebuilt home, they rarely pass a day without remembering something they didn’t carry out. “It’s like a fresh stab to the heart,” says Fies. “I don’t think you get over it; I think you just build a new, different life than the one you had before.”