Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

The Mental Load

A Feminist Comic

by Emma

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Translated by Una Dimitrijevic

"The mental load. It's incessant, gnawing, exhausting, and disproportionately falls to women. You know the scene—you're making dinner, calling the plumber/doctor/mechanic, checking homework and answering work emails—at the same time. All the while, you are being peppered with questions by your nearest and dearest 'where are my shoes?', 'do we have any cheese? . . .'" —Australian Broadcasting Corp on Emma's comic

In her first book of comic strips, Emma reflects on social and feminist issues by means of simple line drawings, dissecting the mental load, i.e. all that invisible and unpaid organizing, list-making and planning women do to manage their lives, and the lives of their family members. Most of us carry some form of mental load—about our work, household responsibilities, financial obligations and personal life; but what makes up that burden and how it's distributed within households and understood in offices is not always equal or fair. In her strips Emma deals with themes ranging from maternity leave (it is not a vacation!), domestic violence, the clitoris, the violence of the medical world on women during childbirth, and other feminist issues, and she does so in a straightforward way that is both hilarious and deadly serious. If you're not laughing, you're probably crying in recognition. Emma's comics also address the everyday outrages and absurdities of immigrant rights, income equality, and police violence.
Emma has over 300,000 followers on Facebook, her comics have been shared 215,000 times, and have elicited comments from 21,000 internet users. An article about her in the French magazine L'Express drew 1.8 million views—a record since the site was created. And her comic has just been picked up by The Guardian. Many women will recognize themselves in The Mental Load, which is sure to stir a wide ranging, important debate on what it really means to be a woman today.

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“[Emma's drawings] show how comics can break down something that seems complicated with utmost clarity. The idea of the mental load shines attention on how women so often become, by default, the household manager, organizing what needs to be done, so that a man expects to be asked to do tasks instead of executing them on his own initiative. The story creates an intimate flowchart of household routine; Emma illustrates just how effective even the most basic comics can be at crystallizing social dynamics.”

“Funny and relevant, this is a book to slip on all your colleagues' desks.”

“Full of fire, fun and humour, Emma is a political cartoonist for our times. Don't miss this book.”

“Her comics perfectly explain the mental load that women bear in the household.”

The Mental Load, a feminist comic by Emma, takes readers on a journey of awakening that is at once delightfully whimsical and frustratingly serious. The graphic stories take aim at the way women’s unpaid caregiving and labor is invisible, undervalued and expected at home, and how it shapes and limits their experiences and career trajectories at work. An eye-opening gem.”

“This book is wonderful, it resonated so powerfully with me and I loved the ways in which Emma forces us to look afresh at the gender inequality we so often unthinkingly accept as normal. It is funny, incisive and unflinching and speaks to vital feminist issues women today are grappling with in their daily lives. I know it will make a lot of people think twice, and think differently.”

“Emma’s strong, smart, clear-eyed book gives us the language (and the urgent desire) to shout from the rooftops about the maddening, unacknowledged injustices women face every day. It validates all the thoughts I have about being a woman and didn't have words for”

“Emma talks about the clitoris like nobody else.”

“The gender wars of household chores.”

“French cartoonist Emma raises issues of inequality within French society with humor and humanity, using short statements accompanied by disarmingly charming cartoons that point out the absurdities of some common social conventions and beliefs.”

“Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of these drawings. With each stroke of the pencil, Emma tears at the patriarchy and tarnishes the veneer of a society whose injustices she denounces.”

blog — December 14

Winter 2018 newsletter

 
Dear Friends,
  
A couple of years ago we met Ed Young, the multi-Caldecott-winning legendary children’s book author and illustrator, and began traveling up to Hastings-on-Hudson to visit with him in his labyrinthine studio and home. Many things he was working on interested us, but there was one book in particular, something other publishers had turned their backs on as “too sad.” But we didn’t find it sad, it was too emotionally rich to be sad, too true. Together Ed, writer Mark Reibstein, and our art director Stewart Cauley embarked on a journey to tell the story of a boy recalling his mom in the simplest, most unadorned way possible—spare words, shaped into a seventeen-syllable form of haiku that Mark calls American Sentences (a term coined by Allen Ginsberg); brown ink drawings by Ed of the utmost simplicity, in which you discern cats and the moon, people, but never without searching; and a textured, plainspoken design. We think it’s a masterpiece, and the advance reviewers seem to agree.

"Subtly rhyming haiku relate the poignant story, told from a child’s viewpoint, of a mother who leaves home, returns, and leaves again. Both the poetry and illustrations reveal the love between the mother and son.…Text and pictures skillfully combine to portray the emotions of a small boy who is left to wonder if his absent mother will ever return. The Author’s Note defines the Japanese word yugen as 'subtle and profound,' which will be how readers describe their feelings about this second author/illustrator collaboration."Booklist (starred review)

"Step into a dream of a story by the team that created Wabi Sabi (2008). Reibstein and Young reunite in this sophisticated, dreamy, lyrical tribute to maternal love and loss, the eternity of memories, and the power of nature to depict human emotions.... This unconventional picture book offers opportunities to discuss poetic form, Japanese culture and customs, artistic style, and storytelling—making this book perfect for older readers as well. Beauty is ever present in this book, amid loss and mystery." Kirkus Reviews
 
Paul Robeson Jr. published A Black Way of Seeing with us some years ago, a fiercely intelligent collection of essays. Paul became a friend and through him we got to know his daughter, Susan, and wife, Marilyn. So it felt like kismet when agent extraordinaire Marie Brown brought us Susan’s children’s book about the time her grandfather actually stopped a battle in the Spanish Civil War by singing to the combatants on both sides, illustrated by the amazing artist Rod Brown. That book is finally coming out in January from Triangle Square, a true story, in these times of unending war, of peace touching the hearts of fighting men. In its advance review, Kirkus calls out “Brown’s deeply saturated, highly textured illustrations [that] effectively capture the dangers Robeson encountered to try to bring peace to war-torn Spain” and describes Susan’s personal story as “a story worth hearing about a cause worth fighting for.”
 
The question at the start of any social movement is often about what will radicalize people and draw them in, what will be the issue that will be important enough for them to give of their time, even to take to the streets. Noam Chomsky talks about how at the start of the movement against the Vietnam War they would call a meeting, and to get even a dozen people to show up they would have to make the meeting not just about the Vietnam War but also about a handful of other pressing social and political issues.

We’re convinced that the social and political issue that is going to galvanize people in 2019 will be the question of who has control over abortion access in this country. On January 22, the forty-fifth anniversary of the Roe v. Wadedecision, we will release reproductive rights journalist Robin Marty’s Handbook for a Post-Roe America, a true handbook that addresses the needs of the present moment, a moment when laws in twenty states limiting abortion rights are already in place, and there is a new balance of power in the US Supreme Court. Widespread media coverage is expected in the Los Angeles TimesNew York TimesThe NationBitchBustRewireSeattle Post-Intelligencer, NPR, and much more.

Two current SSP titles from France share an unexpected kinship: Yasmina Reza’s new novel, Babylon, which the New York Times has called "haunting," and the French blogging sensation Emma’s The Mental Load, which we launched first in England through Seven Stories Press Limited, and then here in the US. While Yasmina Reza’s novel can be read as a literary tour de force, and Emma’s book is a much more direct account of the burden that women bear that men do not, and what to do about it, both books espouse an implicit political wish, and both reveal profound class and gender inequalities.
 
Lastly, I want to call your attention to a book we didn’t publish this year, but that I wish we had, Asad Haider’s Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump, a meditation on the complex reality and history of identity politics, a book I hope everyone will read.
 
Back in May, we had just launched a Pride Month special collection online when I got an e-mail from Eileen Dengler, executive director of NAIBA, with a request: Couldn’t we find a way for booksellers to participate in what we were doing online? I loved the question, and wrote to our sales and distribution partners at Penguin Random House. They too loved the idea and were willing to make the titles we selected for themed collections available to booksellers through a special promotion. Together with NAIBA, we came up with a plan to launch periodic themed collections, starting in August with two, “Women in Translation” and “For Human Rights, Against War,” and we added a dollar prize for the best in-store display, juried by NAIBA, based on photographs the booksellers sent in, with half the prize money going to the store and the other half going to the individual staffperson who designed the display. We didn’t think we had all the answers. We were experimenting. But we were also listening. And we were enjoying the conversation over the course of those months. There was a lot that the president of NAIBA, Todd Dickinson, and Eileen were saying that made all kinds of sense to us. The initiative succeeded well enough for us all to want to continue it.

After a few months, we decided to expand, inviting a small group of independent publishers to participate in 2019, and with Eileen reaching out to other regional bookseller associations to invite their participation. And so far what we’ve learned already is that the right answers come if you only continue asking the right questions, and we have. Next year it looks like there will be five participating publishers and possibly all the regional associations. We’ve chosen three months, March, June and October, that don’t conflict with big holiday months. And we think the upshot will be that not only will a bond be strengthened between independent publishers and independent booksellers but also that within stores there’ll be a special place for readers to find an “Indie Playlist.”

Partly coming out of that ongoing conversation, we’ve now altered our online profile. We still have our annual sale for the holidays, and other online initiatives and sales. But this year we are trying something a bit different; in solidarity with our friends at independent bookstores across the nation, we are excluding from any discount all new books and all frontlist titles, meaning anything published in the past year, and our top twenty all-time best-selling titles. You’ll find these at your local indie bookseller, along with the other discoveries that physical independent stores are all about. And we no longer automatically discount all the books on our site. You can still come to our website for deep discovery, since physical stores may find the right book for you, but they can’t carry in their limited space the thousand or so political and literary titles on our backlist. You can get those from our website, and also receive a free e-book in .mobi format (for Kindles) or .epub (for all other devices) every time you buy a printed book from us (something even Amazon can’t or won’t do, btw). And don't forget to e-mail sevenstories@sevenstories.com a copy of a receipt showing the purchase of any of our books from indie bookstores and we’ll gladly send you the e-book version gratis.
 
We mourn the loss last month of our dear friend Juris Jurjevics, former editor in chief of Dial, co-founder and former co-publisher of Soho Press, novelist, and founding member of the Seven Stories Advisory Board. Juris was an original, and one of the great contributors to publishing culture, and someone who had managed to make the transition successfully to his later career as a novelist.
 
Our best holiday wishes to all for the holidays and in 2019,
Dan
 
      

Emma is a 36-year-old computer technician who lives in Paris but who says she learns "all over the place." She podcasts programs for the radio station France Culture, and her comics run in The Guardian. A former member of the collective Stop harcèlement de rue (Stop Street Harassment), she is confident that her feminist beliefs have now made it onto the "information superhighway" for good.