Transcript Episode 636: Jillian Tamaki

By the time Roaming arrived last year, it had been nearly a decade since This One Summer, the last collaboration between cousins Jillian and Mariko Tamaki. The comic was their second joint project, follow 2008's award-winning debut, Skim. This One Summer won the pair an Eisner, Ignatz and Coldecott, before running afoul of overzealous censorship boards, due in part to its compassionate and humane approach to writing LGBTQ youths. Targeted at a YA audience, Roaming's cast is older, but the book similarly approaches a budding queer relationship, as three college aged woman travel from Canadian to New York City for a whirlwind trip.

Jillian Tamaki  0:00  
I am incredibly sentimental and like this dialogic and like email. So like the passage of time is extremely upsetting to me and always has been, always has been. And but I think that it's all off kilter now because the coat the COVID, and then like turning 40 and COVID, then like, having been in New York, and then like, restarting my life a little bit in Toronto, that all that was like eight years between COVID and moving, so I feel like time makes less sense than ever now.

Brian Heater  0:54  
Having a big birthday during COVID was weird

Jillian Tamaki  0:56  
to definitely, yeah, my birthday was April 2020, turned 40. And it was just like, so your body changes your outlook changes your relationship to work changes. Anyway, I think like around this time, and then it happened to coincide with this like, world event that changed everything, all those things for everybody. So who knows? What would have happened regardless, had you not had this backdrop happening?

Brian Heater  1:28  
This getting my eyes checked out? The optometrist said something along the lines of He's like, he's like, Yeah, you know, he probably won't need it. Like for a couple years, like your prescription won't change, and then you hit 40. And there's this weird, like, you know, they're like, there's an extent to which it's sort of like an arbitrary milestone, but I don't know, did you feel like turning 40 Like, really had this marked impact on these various facets of your life?

Jillian Tamaki  1:56  
I didn't think it was going to but I think I think that it has you know, so funny, because like when now you would talk to like my parents or older, older people in their late 40s, nothing. Wait till you get to 50 are sick, and you're like, it's just always a rolling on. Thanks.

Brian Heater  2:13  
Granted, it's not that long ago, but I was reading an interview with you from like, 2017, I think was Guardian Eva talking about aging, then, you know, so you know,

Jillian Tamaki  2:22  
I mean, I you if you look at some of my earlier books, I'm like, I think it's indoor voice or Gilda lilies. Like, there's drawings of myself as a very old person. And I did a thing and the guardian. Yeah, that was like me aging. So I feel like I've been on this like visualization tip, too. Understand it and not feel so scared about it. I also, you know, I do I do, volunteering with adult literacy and like, work with seniors and stuff. And I'm now making a book about like, my, I have a cat who's like, almost 21 years old. I feel like I'm, I've always been, I feel like I'm thinking about aging, and being old specifically to aging and being older, you know, different things, right? So, there's always been like an attempt to understand that, but I don't think it's, I mean, now hitting middle age you, it's all the things all the cliches make sense. And all the things that old people said that you're just like, that is so boring, I do not care. It's all I want to hear about, you know, as I was talking with some friends the other day that they were like, God, like, all they want to do is read about like marriages, you know, how hard that is, and all these things that would have. And like menopause, I want to read literature about menopause now, and it's just stuff that couldn't have been like, less intriguing or interesting to like a younger version of ourselves. We were like, That's what I want to read. Now. There's a lot less literature and art made about menopause. And there is about puberty.

Brian Heater  4:06  
I think this is changing, this is changing is like, you know, the life expectancy has increased over the past century, but also just how people are regarding like getting older, and like just, you know, women's health issues in general. But I think traditionally, like puberty was regarded as an exciting thing. And the beginning of something and menopause was regarded as the end of summer. So something people didn't want to talk about, probably,

Jillian Tamaki  4:35  
yeah, for sure. For sure. I think that that could change. I think that that will be like a thing that is being explored now because I know a lot of you know, just anecdotally my artist friends are starting to think that and make art about middle age and all that stuff. So that's cool.

Brian Heater  4:53  
I was reading. Julie works, his latest book, and there's this I don't know if you've read it yet, but there's a moment in there where she's talking about I think Going back to I think it was like SPX and somebody like, talked about her being like, she meets this like young kid and they say something like, oh, you know, like you're an elder statesman or whatever. And she got super excited about it. And oh, that's really nice. You know, like, yeah, that's a good reaction. That's not I don't have that. It's a good instinct to have those to be sort of Excite, you know, excited about being regarded as somebody who's like, been around for a while. A while it has something to teach you.

Jillian Tamaki  5:30  
Yeah, for sure. I, it's funny. Yeah. I mean, I guess I have to accept that. But it's also like, I've, I feel like I have so much more to do.

Brian Heater  5:43  
Things that I want to do dying soon, like, yeah, I don't, I don't know. Anything that you don't know about.

Jillian Tamaki  5:48  
No, no, no. It's just weird to hear that because you're like, I feel like I'm like, aren't I kind of at the beginning, as well, but you're not. But you are you are also aware that, you know, these books take so long to make, and you only have, how much more working life in you. It's there's a limit, right? You do have to maybe choose when to make books and jump into those books you've been wanting to make? Because it's like, you know, if ever all them take five years to adds up? Yeah,

Brian Heater  6:28  
like Bill Griffith on the show. Like, okay, like he's in his 70s. Like, yeah, like, that's a fair conversation to have. But like, Adrian Tomita isn't that old and he was very much just quantifying the, like, remaining years of his life and the number of books, you know, so it's not it's something that cartoonists I don't speak to as many novelists but novelists and probably the same. Start thinking about it like, a pretty early age, it seems

Jillian Tamaki  6:56  
like, Yeah, I mean, it's also there's such an expenditure of energy, that you're just like, well, I even have that level of energy to be able to run this gauntlet over and over again. And do I want to, I mean, it's kind of hard, it's getting harder and harder to be an artist, or commercial artist. working now. So

Brian Heater  7:19  
you mean, like, from a financial standpoint, or Yeah, financial

Jillian Tamaki  7:22  
and are a lot of the industry is changing? Very quickly, and the economics of it are? I mean, they've always changed though. I mean, I graduated right after 911. And, you know, it's always been in flux. So you've always had to, you've always had to adapt, and to the changing, publishing environment and all this stuff. But at some point, you're like, I'm like, I'm tired. Do I have to be do I have to learn tick tock now. So it that's a little bit comes into the energy too. It's not just to make the book to be like, but to also like exist within the industry and environment? I

Brian Heater  8:09  
wonder how much of like, the nature of your response to that specific question is based on the sort of the process you are in the cycle of making a book now, obviously, like, roaming, roaming has been finished for a long time at this point, and you toured on it for it was like a long tour, you're talking about it for a couple months, and then there's that sort of like, you know, I don't want to be glib about it. But you know, people call like, postpartum depression, you know, like, but just that idea of, like, am

Jillian Tamaki  8:37  
I sounding? No, no, and no, I

Brian Heater  8:41  
mean, a little bit bit, but like, I get it, but I'm also wondering if it's like, if you're, from that standpoint, how your relationship changes to a piece of work, right? Like, when you're in the middle of it, you know, is it more energizing than when it's kind of finished? And you're kind of feel like you've done Oh,

Jillian Tamaki  8:59  
100% I mean, I get really depressed. I mean, making a thing is not totally enjoyable. Anyway. I mean, it's up and down. And it's like, you get little moments of grace that then like buoy you through, but slog of it, but the whenever I finish a book, I get extremely depressed. Just because like that thing isn't like a live anymore. You know what I mean? Like, you can't make it better. You only have accomplished the things you want it to accomplish. You fixate on the weak parts and not the strong parts like and that you can when you declare it finished, the those things are just all frozen in time and they're sort of evidence of your like failures or like weaknesses is just there. And so like all my books, I feel like I soften my attitude to towards them as like time goes on, and I'm like, further away from them. But ya know, for sure, like I, I'm definitely a person that prefers to be like in. In the process even though again, I just said it was it's difficult i That's where I'm most comfortable. And I'm not within it in progress with any book right now. So it makes me it's just too much time to think

Brian Heater  10:25  
you might not feel this way people have told me this too. It's hard to, like understand this about yourself. But like, from where I sit looking at you and your career, you seem like a very prolific person, and you seem like somebody who like has one or two or more projects going on at any given time.

Jillian Tamaki  10:44  
Sometimes not. Not recently, I feel like you know, when I was for the first God, like 10, plus years, always juggling a million things, partially because you're established, you're establishing yourself and you're younger. And you know, it was like before you're in a creative community before people had kids.

Brian Heater  11:09  
And you can work a day job and then like, you still can like, just work on something until midnight, and it's fine. Well, just that

Jillian Tamaki  11:14  
energy is really different, right. And you're all especially in New York, that was what was great about being there was the friction and like the energy just buoys each other up, right. And so that was a very productive time. Now, I think that I do more, like things one at a time. And I'll have a little things lined up to butt up against one another. But I do now do want like sort of one one book at a time, one book at a time, which like, is good and bad. Like, I think that it's so it feels so luxurious to be able to, I mean, I'm still always doing other things on the background, but not to the same volume, but it feels it feels very luxurious to be able to focus really intensely on each book as they come, but then that can feel a little dangerous to as like a person that can be like overly precious and like overthink things and want things to be perfect. And that that that I think that that can like actually work against you to have like, too much freedom almost, or, you know, the good gives you too much latitude to like indulge in some of those bad habits. Whereas if, like, that's why I think a deadline can be great, you know, it forces you to finish and commit and be fine with as it is. And yeah,

Brian Heater  12:41  
I'm taking a couple of weeks off of work right now because I had I basically have like vacation that I didn't use up that I need to blow through and you know, I travel a little bit I went to Portland, Vancouver, but like the lion's share of the time, I just been hanging in my apartment. I've been getting a lot of reading done. That's great. Again, part of this has to do with the fact that I'm kind of like injured at the moment and can't like you know, do too much but, but I've done so much cleaning of my apartment, like and so much like post pandemic cleaning up just like I was feeling like I was becoming kind of like a hoarder. It's you know, I was like, yeah, getting like uncomfortable with it. And then I just when I force myself to have free time, I don't know what to do with myself. So I have to find like other ways to feel productive.

Jillian Tamaki  13:28  
Were you a clean person before? Have you always been a clean person? Oh, you

Brian Heater  13:35  
have it? Okay. You I was I was pretty organized before.

Jillian Tamaki  13:39  
Yeah, there's a difference between organized and clean.

Brian Heater  13:43  
Yeah, I mean, I don't know if they granted like granted. Okay. Well, we really go into this. I, I like a lot of people got to the point where I like finally started doing therapy during the pandemic and I got diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. And I'm like, oh, like, they're

Jillian Tamaki  14:03  
like, oh, pieces are clicking. And every, you know, I

Brian Heater  14:07  
was comparing it to like, you know, I'm not like a astrology person. But like, I was comparing it to like reading the best horoscope anyone has ever written about you and you're like, Oh, yeah.

Jillian Tamaki  14:17  
Yeah. Good for you, man. That's awesome. Yeah, but it's good. That pleased to have a diagnosis. Yeah, but I think that

Brian Heater  14:27  
plays into like, you know, into being clean and like trying to like yeah, it's too

Jillian Tamaki  14:33  
you know, I have so many issues with being clean because my mom is really clean, not like, you know, just very tidy, really wants everything tidy and clean and once the like, vacuum straw strokes to be overlapping in the right way. You know what I mean?

Brian Heater  14:56  
Like people are with their lawns. She is with the carpet.

Jillian Tamaki  14:59  
Oh, she's like that with the law. Want to? And so like, so I was always like, you know, you're, you know, accused of being a little slot I'm never been really clean clean. And I feel like it's like you're kind of always was kind of a sloppy person and like that dirty but not neat, you know. And like kind of felt this pressure from like the mother figure that you're like, not clean and you're dirty and like it's in your like dirty and like messy and it's like you're a slob. And so I'm Pigpen with the good for your immune immune system, you know, but then it's like I saw it's like part of my identity almost now too is like in like oppositional. You know, like, so much of your identity comes up from like oppositional forces. I've always like had these hang ups about cleanliness and neatness and tidiness. And now like, I do feel, baby, this is getting like getting there is actually a pleasure to cleaning. And there was like, a pleasure in like, existing within cleanliness. But like, I've actually like, resisted some of that. And now I'm like, renegotiating why, like, relationship to cleanliness? And like, it's okay to like it. Like, don't you admit that it is nice to be around like, a clean apartment? And you know, that isn't like, and there's a domestic like, gender thing in there, too. But, yeah, so there's no point to my story. I'm just saying that like, this is a topic that is very interesting to me.

Brian Heater  16:46  
I think that this really speaks to what we were talking about at the beginning, which is, I don't know for you, maybe maybe cleaning is one of those things that again, you hit 40. And you're like, people told me this thing about cleaning. And now I'm experiencing it from the other side. Like, maybe Marie Kondo has a point. Yeah.

Jillian Tamaki  17:07  
I mean, it is like kind of weird, the I know things are cliche for a reason. It's because other people have, like, you know, gone through it and made note of it. And you don't understand that until you're at that place yourself.

Brian Heater  17:21  
You deal with some younger artists to like, in terms of like teaching or, or giving talks, but of that, of experiencing that frustration that older people felt with you about? Like, why is it any of this getting through?

Jillian Tamaki  17:38  
Yeah, but I don't know. Sometimes I think about like, the older. It wasn't every teacher not by any stretch of the imagination, but like, sort of like when I was in school, there was a little bit of a tendency on the teachers to be kind of dismissive, or like, Debbie downers, you know, I'm just like, oh, well, it's all going to shit. And like, at this point, it was like, the computer is going to replace us all because we all were airbrush artists. And now that computer that damn Photoshop and likes and because again, this really is the time that I came up with, like stock illustration, that stock illustration is gonna just decimate our industry and you're just like, why am I I'm at Squire, you telling me? Oh, man, you

Brian Heater  18:29  
know, you get to that point, you're like, Okay, well, this is, I know, in my soul, that this is the thing that I need to do. And the only thing that I'm really good at, and that will make me happy. But I also know that I'm going to do everything I can to dissuade other people from following me into this.

Jillian Tamaki  18:47  
Yeah, I don't know. I don't get that like impulse in a way. You know, I try to be a little bit more positive while but still being realistic, right? Like that to the challenges of being a professional artist. But it's just so funny. Like, in retrospect, I'm like, why were they it's so like. Not it's not it's not being mean? It's like, being overly nihilistic or pests, pessimist? pessimist? Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Brian Heater  19:17  
Well, your, your sister's an artist. Mm hmm. She's younger.

Jillian Tamaki  19:22  
She's three years younger.

Brian Heater  19:24  
So that's not a big gap at all. But I assume you had some of these conversations with her as she was exploring this world. Yeah,

Jillian Tamaki  19:31  
well, I mean, she and I are so similar. And we get along really well. Like she's my best friend, I would say. And she kind of we've always gotten along pretty well. I mean, besides when you're like, really young, and you have to babysit each other. Right? So she was actually much more focused than I was she had such a strong like my sister was Lauren to Maggie. By the way. She had such a strong aesthetic taste even as a child, like she was really into classical music. And she was really into like mad magazines like collected bad night, which is extremely sophisticated, I think for lighter,

Brian Heater  20:13  
but those are also both ends of the spectrum. No, but they're like, it's

Jillian Tamaki  20:17  
cool, you know, and she was very into, like, Archie and she was very into like, like, just like, gemstones. And she had a very strong like aesthetic sense of art. And I was not really like that. And so I feel like she was much more strongly, you know, sure of herself that she was going to be an artist and be in culture, because she was an aesthetic, whereas I was good at drawing, but why was I good at drawing was because I was obsessed with horses, and therefore copied pictures of horses all the time. And like, rendered photographs and like, you know, horses are famously hard to draw, I think, actually probably learned pretty good observational skills by trying to draw horses. So like I was, and I wanted to be a vet. And I really, actually hated being told you're going to be an artist, wild animal. And I was like, Don't tell me, nobody likes to be told what to do, you know. And so I really resented the fact that, like, I was being pushed by the world, and maybe even I don't know, like, there was an attraction to it. But I really just didn't think that that was like a good thing to follow. So I don't know in terms just getting back to the question of like, my sister, I really didn't have to give her any guidance. I think that some of the problem is, she's just we're naturally good at the same things. We're attracted to a lot of the same things and she's followed my footsteps. She recently moved back to Toronto from New York. Literally. Like, yeah, yeah. And I think it's like, but we just kind of have the same, it's just it feels like very not, it feels almost coincidental, because we just are very, very similar. And we're attracted the same things and kind of have a similar skill set. So yeah, I don't know. What a talented family though, right?

Brian Heater  22:14  
One thing that surprised me is, like, you and Marika weren't super close growing up. Yeah. I

Jillian Tamaki  22:20  
mean, I grew up in Calgary, right, which is like, for some of our listeners, I'll just explain where that is. That is like above Montana. You know, it's like the wet it's the prairies, right? And Marika grew up here in Toronto. And I mean, my, my parents are from the east as they call it. Yeah, I

Brian Heater  22:39  
should, I should interject that that Calgary like they have like a huge rodeo there, which is they did the stampede, which should kind of give you like an idea,

Jillian Tamaki  22:49  
which is a baka Nodle where everybody is allowed to wear jeans for I'm not even joking. And there's like hay bales in the in the bank. And like, everybody is allowed to wear jeans and Cowboy Western wear for like 10 days and just like drunk off their asses. I mean, this is the way it was when I was growing up anyway. So my parents don't, they don't like going to Ontario or Quebec. They don't like they are Calgary people now even though they grew up over there. So we did not feel like I feel like saying we never came and visited you know, Toronto, I feel like I came if somebody were we had this joke on tour of like, if somebody died or got married, which was like a couple times we would come over and they did not you know people don't give a shit about like people in the East don't give a shit about the west so they never came over there. So we didn't see we didn't grow up with one another at all. It was more when I came to go to school in I went to Kingston or sorry, went to Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario for my foundation year. And so that's like to go back home you go through Toronto and I had friends a lot of friends from that were from Toronto and I made at Queens and so spending more time in Toronto and that's when I got to know her and we started you know getting eat eating dinners and having lunch together and all this stuff so that was when I really came to know her as an adult and was really pleasantly surprised I mean cuz she was like a working artist and that was really I didn't really know anybody like that and she was involved in all this cool like theater activism stuff and it's very impressive

Brian Heater  24:37  
you know this like intrinsically or you know this logically but until you actually meet somebody who can make a living doing it. It seems like a pipe dream, especially

Jillian Tamaki  24:46  
coming from our family right which is a little like buttoned down. They're all like they're, they're our parents gender because our our brothers are or sorry, our dads are brothers. So like that gender ration of our parents, they're all lawyers and tax they're all in tax. My dad's a tax accountant a first generation. No, my grandfather grandfather was born here and his father our great grandfather came when he was like young

Brian Heater  25:17  
Yeah, cuz I feel like there's always a little bit of that like the the more recent your family yes emigrate. Definitely more pressure there is to I guess perform?

Jillian Tamaki  25:25  
Definitely I mean it a lot I think a lot of it has to do with like the incarceration that happened of our family in World War Two, where you part of that response was pretty aggressive assimilation of just like, well, you're

Brian Heater  25:42  
talking about domestic you're talking about like in North America? Yeah. And like, it's

Jillian Tamaki  25:48  
okay, how do we protect us ourselves from this ever happening again, we become professionals, and we we hardcore assimilate? You know, I've a lot of thoughts on that. But I that was that was that generation, right? So everybody that my grandfather became a lawyer, and he was, you know, a very prominent first, you know, first Japanese Canadian lawyer that reached the bar or whatever, you know, like and, and then his, all those kids went into professional life. And I have an aunt that's very artistic, but she went and became a lawyer to write and so I feel like, then the generation below that is allowed to, like, their, their from white collar class, right, so that they can pursue for more freedom, and they have more freedom of choice as to what they want to follow. So what was my What was your original question?

Brian Heater  26:44  
It's like the sacrifice at your

Jillian Tamaki  26:48  
sheet within our family. She was like, quite unique, in that she was a working artist, she had tattoos. And you know, at that point, that was not that common to have like full sleeve tattoos and stuff, so that she was really, like, quite unique for our family. And I was like, that's, that's really interesting. And, whoa, crazy that that's a possibility. So I'm sure that that in some way, was inspiring to me to that, you know, you don't necessary because I was so timid, like being in school of just like, Okay, well, I'm interested in art, but like, that's not a viable career path, I need to work in a museum or something. And so I followed that, I didn't really want to do that. And then I was, you know, what wanted to, okay, graphic designer, that seems sort of creative, I'll do that. And, you know, but that's a real job. And I'll get a job and a company and

Brian Heater  27:38  
things that are adjacent to what you want to do. Yes, I

Jillian Tamaki  27:42  
was always looking for that, right. And that I worked in video games when I first graduated, because that was, again, a real job. And then, uh, and then I was freelancing, doing, you know, editorial, and then I eventually could do that full time. But that was working for real clients that were big clients in big, big corporations and that there's a security to that or whatever, you know, so I felt like I had to like in Okay, books, okay. But you know, it's so. But you're working in publishing, and that's like a real and so I feel like it's always been like, inching towards this artistically lifestyle. I always really put an asterix as I'm a commercial artist, but it was always it was very timid, it was I never ever wanted to jump off the cliff, like, fully,

Brian Heater  28:32  
I think these are like, healthy and understandable influences, especially living in a place like Toronto, and even more in a place like New York, where it is like, very hard to make a living as an artist and an increasingly so.

Jillian Tamaki  28:46  
Definitely. I'm actually I'm really glad I glad I did that, that progression, you know, it felt it made it feel safer to me to be sort of incremental about it, because, you know, I need to make a living, right. And I would be feel so stressed out if I had, if I had sort of jumped off a cliff, it just wasn't me. Right. And so that wouldn't have made me feel secure or safe. Right? So and in a way, like, because I always had these really made my money some other way. It allowed me to keep making books as a thing for myself, I considered it personal work, you know, and it was very separate. That was there was no pressure on me to like, make all my money off of books, because I always had another way of making money. And so I think that that was really freeing to have that kept clear for myself.

Brian Heater  29:40  
You've had a lot of very successful books, but you know, at first glance, there's nothing that strikes me as them being intentionally commercial.

Jillian Tamaki  29:54  
Yeah, I mean, they're it's never it's not for not part of my equation, but I owe Oh, God when your name is on something changes the equation. I feel like when I was more of like a jobbing illustrator it was your name is on that too, but it feels like you're putting on all these hats. But like, I think that when you have to stand behind something, and it's in a bookstore, ostensibly for a long time, and your name is on it, like, I do still kind of want to reserve I mean, I reserve the right to sell out in any time. But I do try to keep that I do try to keep I just tried to be thoughtful about what I do. You know, I'd rather make my money ever whiskey values

Brian Heater  30:41  
conversation, like, especially with like musicians, I end up interviewing a lot of like, punk musicians from like this, you know, 70s 80s and 90s. Just about like, and this is, you know, getting back to like, feeling like an old person talking to younger people, but like, trying to explain the concept of selling out to somebody who's Gen Z, because it's not. And I think that's great. I think it's great that it just doesn't really exist in the same way that it did in like the 90s. It

Jillian Tamaki  31:05  
doesn't exist in the same way. But I think that it's like, I think that there are still, like, some unwritten rules. I mean

like, I think that artists are there's more understanding about like, the difficulties of being like a professional artists. But so when it's like, go get that bag, you know, if you if something on like a sponsored post or whatever, that's what like, the comments are, like, underneath the thing of like, Yes, get has enough. Yeah, exactly. Like, go, go get it, you know, but then I think that there is like, I mean, look at the boycotting, you know, that that happens to I think that there's I don't even know how to, what kind

Brian Heater  32:03  
of boycotting specifically are you? Are you thinking of, in this instance

Jillian Tamaki  32:14  
for example, Beyonce play allowing her Mubi to be played in Israel right now. Or it's like a bit of a question of like, okay, like we actually there's, there's a, there's more discussion around that it's more nuanced than like, you're a sellout man, to like, any sort of like commercial application of your work or whatever. I think that there's a little bit more nuanced, but it's not totally carte blanche,

Brian Heater  32:42  
I think you're drawing an important distinction here. And again, this is part of like, getting older, is examining some of your, again, what they call what they call in their in cognitive therapy, like core beliefs, like re examining these things that you have carried around with you for a long time that you've never examined for. And sometimes, like, you look at those things, and you're like, Oh, that was something I decided when I was 13. And I just never really questioned it. And, and yeah, I think the distinction you're drawing here is important because I think at its core something like selling out like there are there are absolutely good impulses behind like like being against that, you know, and people should be wary of, of corporations, but you're you're discussing having you know, it's all however, however you feel about Israel, I guess, but like, a moral and ethical compass in the work that you do. And that's like, hopefully always gonna be important.

Jillian Tamaki  33:44  
Yeah, I mean, people are really questioning that now. And, you know, is it even ethical to be like, I mean, some of these questions, I just hear them floating around. Like, what is like, why am I doing this? Like the world needs? Like, my help? And is my help that I'm doing like art? Like, is that the best use of my energies? Like, I mean, I think that those conversations, I have those conversations all the time with artists of all ages, you know, so but I don't think it's just artists that are having that quest that meta, you know, questioning themselves about some of that. My

Brian Heater  34:24  
understanding is a big part of the reason why I like this one summer, for example, got banned is because there were a lot of like, LGBT Q things in there, right. Like there were themes. There were characters there were

Jillian Tamaki  34:37  
there was mention of the Herbison of themes. Yeah.

Brian Heater  34:43  
Like reference to Jesus, yeah. But things that are you important things that are you know, if you're a kid growing up and not even like Calgary, but in like wherever, Alberta and you know, maybe don't do Have Umbraco in your life and don't have, you know, don't have that access to culture that like, stumbling on this book and library and realizing that they're like other people like you'd like that's, that's, that's incredibly that's incredibly important and when

Jillian Tamaki  35:16  
which is why we must deprive Yeah.

Brian Heater  35:20  
Yeah, and I guess I guess Yeah, you know, do you radicalizes is too intensive a word, but like, what's something like that happens? Does that make you want to, like, push even harder?

Jillian Tamaki  35:37  
No, I mean, I want to keep on doing what I'm doing, you know, because I actually kind of, I'm very lucky, I get to make the books that I want to make. And it's so funny, because I consider myself quite a mainstream artist, I don't really have I'm not suppressing things that I would like to make a book, but it's too dark, and it won't go with my brand. Like, I kind of am lucky, I get to make the books I want to make, and which are typically very quiet slice of life. Little weird meditations on weird emotions that I'm having. And, you know, this one summer was obviously done with my cousin, but then I remember I'm like, Oh, right. But like even a book that's quite quiet and personal. This still bannable like in our current environment, you know, like, it doesn't really take much, especially if that's ramped up. Now. When our first book book was first banned, it was much more explicitly like, Okay, you're talking about LGBT books or themes, or that have characters or whatever? Now, it just seems like kind of anything or anything related related to race or history? Or in some cases, I mean, I feel like you hear about them just removing the whole library.

Brian Heater  36:52  
Sir. Pictures of the, like, empty shelves? Yeah, for sure.

Jillian Tamaki  36:55  
So you know, just to be safe, right? But it's a it's, it doesn't. So I don't think you actually have to try that hard to make something that's gonna like ruffle like feathers, or anything like that. And that book is about the Met the messiness of like, the transition, right? And how you arrive at knowledge and how you arrived at. Like, you never just, you're just not like ordained, like, we're like this knowledge of like, how to be an adult. Is a is like bestowed upon you, that doesn't just click on with puberty, like that's quite the opposite. In fact, yes, it's a very rocky road. And it's, it's met with myth, and rumor, and you learn from your peers first. And a lot of times which the information you get from your peers is not that great. And so like, that's what that book is really depicting. And I think that just anything to do with and I say this, you know, that we're using it very broadly, sexuality, and young people is a very messy for some people, but it's like the kids are, are on this journey of learning about this stuff. Anyway. So we're kind of just trying to depict that, I think. And, but that's, you know, people want to wrap kids in bubble wrap, I guess.

Brian Heater  38:39  
Rika said in one of the joint interviews that the two of you did, and you know, it makes sense. But she basically said she didn't, she didn't name any names and didn't throw anybody under the bus. But she's like, you know, there are. I'm aware of books that like have way more potentially controversial things in them. But I think that it is just being hitting a certain level of popularity means you're that much more strict scrutiny.

Jillian Tamaki  39:05  
And visibility, right. Like, it's all I mean, I think a lot of this comes from us winning the Caldicott honor. Which then which it was an unusual book to win that because it was a comic and it for was for like older kids. Right? And then what, and that was controversial and unusual. And but what I think happened is that a lot of people just buy those by all the winners of that year and then put it in the library and it's like I do, I think our book needs to be shelved correctly. And that's like, not our fault that our book gets maybe shelved incorrectly or that people think that comics are all ages. Right? That's like another thing that like people naturally they think comics are for kids or, or anybody could read them and it's like that That's not true either. And again, that's not the fault of comics, cartoonists. So,

Brian Heater  40:07  
part of the genesis of roaming, I know that you had sort of the initial seed or spark for the story, but was that was it? You didn't want to do you didn't want to make it a YA book. And that it was by the nature of, I guess, just the work, you're creating that that would be a book for older readers. What is the what's, what's the distinction there? Do you think?

Jillian Tamaki  40:34  
I mean, it was just, it's actually I think, probably technical. With some of the way I mean, I'm not I'm even though I've published in ya, I'm definitely not like a white eight head, like, expert or anything? Oh,

Brian Heater  40:50  
for sure. I just mean, like, in in terms of you in terms of you wanting to do an older work, what does that mean? And

Jillian Tamaki  40:55  
with this book, you know, they have sex, and they, we show them having sex, you know, which is then automatically pings it out of like ya into, like, an adult audience. So I feel like just even technically, I mean, if he probably could have alluded to it, and then saved it, and then maybe been able to categorize it as way but because you like actually show it, it's like it, it elevates it to like an adult, but they were kind of calling it like new adult, I guess, like there's all these small slivers of of categories. You, you can't think about that stuff, you know, as like the creator, you

Brian Heater  41:36  
do, and you don't, and it's something that, you know, you you're probably hyper conscious of in the way that other people aren't, because of, you know, what's happened to you on on previous books, in terms of just sort of like knowing who, who the audience of, of the work is going to be? So there is an extent to which you, you know, perhaps like, you feel like you need to make that a conscious decision. Who you're writing for, as far as age groups go?

Jillian Tamaki  42:03  
Yeah, so we definitely set out to like, not make a YA book, or just actually had the freedom to bust beyond some of those invisible, they're not visible, invisible, but like those, those boundary lines. Because the kids, the women, the women in the book are adults. So you can actually treat them a little bit more like an adult. They can drink in Canada, but not the US. That's where they are. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. It's all fluid, you know, what, what adulthood is, but it but I still think that there's like a sibling hood with the other books as well. And that's why, you know, I, I initiated this book, because then it was sort of based on some experiences that I had, but I didn't get too too far. In the, you know, concepting. And trying to outline the thing a little bit before I was like, This really sounds like a book I would take with my cousin and mate, hopefully, like an evolution right of the previous books, and building upon some of those ideas that we explored in the earlier books. So that's when I asked if she wanted to work on it.

Brian Heater  43:24  
As part of that decision, I guess, the freedom that it grants you to make the kind of book that you want, when you don't have to worry about bands or where it's being put in the library.

Jillian Tamaki  43:36  
I mean, I would lie if I said that it wasn't like a little bit of a relief that like I don't, don't have to like, right, walk that tightrope? Do I think that it could maybe end up in some places that it will would not be appreciated? Sure.

Brian Heater  43:51  
By the nature of it having the to have your name on it. Like it's, some people are gonna Exactly,

Jillian Tamaki  43:56  
exactly. But you know, you can't you can't control where these things go. That much. What's there out there out? Yeah,

Brian Heater  44:06  
I mean, that's just like the making a piece of art in general. And it's the same, like, that's part of it. But you know, I talk to like, a lot of musicians who are just like, you know, it's, it's not my song anymore, when it's out there. And no, completely

Jillian Tamaki  44:20  
I mean, it almost grows legs and like, and that's gonna be really stressful, right? Like, when you're working on a thing of just like, is this going to be interpreted in the way that I want it to be interpreted, but I also don't want to totally control the way it's interpreted because people have been, like, Yo, these like, thoughts when you're making this thing, and that's gonna be a little scary, especially with the experiences that we've had of just like how a thing can just like go out into the world and have its own life. It's cool, but like, it just goes to show that you really don't know where these things end up by Did you have to let that go? Or else you wouldn't do anything because it would be too terrifying.

Brian Heater  45:04  
I was looking back and like figuring out the last time we talked, so it's like, almost 10 years ago was 2014. So it was before it was before this stuff happened, which is part of the reason why I'm like, I'm very curious to get your New York calm on Costa been. It must have been here. Yeah. To get your take on, you know, how a lot of this stuff went down. And I'm curious, like, you seem to be entirely or at least like largely at peace with with I mean, obviously, it sucks. And it's shitty that you had to deal with it. It's shitty that kids aren't getting access these books, but you seem to be mostly at peace with it. Like when, when you first when you were first really made aware of the fact that it was happening? How did that feel?

Jillian Tamaki  45:44  
I feel I look back on all these things that have happened, like, you know, winning certain awards, or this happening, which is a weird flip of it, because it's a massive exposure to be banned, right? I never am aware of the like magnitude of some of these things until, like, years later. So like that happened, and actually it it's almost like, you rev up the press cycle again, which is like so weird, you know, that like something that is actually indicative of something so dark and horrifying, horrifying? is yet more fodder for like press and promo, which is what they want you to do. You know, and it's sort of like, it definitely feels weird to be part of like a bigger, you know, heavy quotations, culture war. And, you know, it's really not about books at all, like, you're just sort of like a little bit of a yeah, you're, you're, it's just a little chip in the thing, right? So it's not actually about your book at all, I feel like most of the time, you end up on that list one time, and then it just is cascading. It's not like, it's not like book, people reread the book and be like, Oh, my God, like, I can't believe this. It's that you're already on a list somewhere. And they just probably take that list to whatever school board or and then object, so I'm not okay with it at all. But like, I just, it's it's just so upsetting that you have to I don't know.

Brian Heater  47:44  
No, it's just upsetting. I'm thinking about it in terms of like, the the stages of grief, like the however many stages of grief they have. And it's like acceptance. And, and, and I'm wondering if you get to the point where it's like, have you gotten to this point? Or is there a point when it's almost like a source of pride that you got put on that list?

Jillian Tamaki  48:04  
No, it's scary.

Brian Heater  48:07  
It's scary. talked a bit about this being a book for older audiences, obviously, the characters are a bit older, you know, do you see that trend? Sort of continuing? Do you see, like, we were talking about menopause, a lot of the conversation, I'm not saying your next book is gonna be bad a pass but, but that you'll, you'll your characters? Not Not that they're you like, you know, going from book to book, but that your characters will sort of like, mature as you do?

Jillian Tamaki  48:35  
I think so. Yeah. Partially, this is like, I know, I made a quite a few books about teenagers now. And, you know, we don't have infinite experiences as any individual, right, like, we have our set of experiences and our set of like, Touchstone moments and our sets of, you know, traumatic things that happened. And are, you have, you know, the kinds of friends that you knew back then and so I feel like I've mined a lot of that. So and it's funny, because I'm a person that has a very strong observational memory I remember the way that lake that subdivision Lake felt and the layout of it and the, you know, this feeling and these kinds of like interactions I've had with people and how feeling saying something to somebody and feeling shame after like, I have like a really, really strong like, memory, sensory memory and memory for stuff like that. So, but I will say that, I look back on some of my earlier work, not just the major work, but just even some little things that I've done. I'm like, right, like, I'm more I'm kind of forgetting some of that from like my child. And so some of that is actually slipping away a little bit. But I'm really glad I made work about it so that it is somewhere and it can trigger those memories, but like I don't, they're they're not as vivid as they have been, you know, at other times, so I think that and making art is always gonna be a process of understanding, right? Like, you're, you're working, it's what you like, put all your books together and you're like, Man, I guess I'm really obsessed with friendships collapsing. Or like, I guess, it

Brian Heater  50:26  
seems weird that just talking to somebody and having them listen to you, like that you're paying? Yeah, we didn't do that. But yeah, just kind of talking through it. Like you're like, yeah, things start to add up.

Jillian Tamaki  50:36  
Yeah. And you're just like, wow, I guess it's just like, What am I attracted to? What am I what am I? What problem am I chewing on in my brain? It's just like, oh, it's like these sets of you don't have to work too hard to like, establish themes, I don't think right. So I think that I'm now needing to process other phases of my life as well. Obviously, like my 20s, and my 30s. Right. So I absolutely think that that will be a bigger part of my work going forward. And I have touched, you know, boundless, that short story collection that I think is 2017. Maybe we're talking about that

Brian Heater  51:18  
was like, well, before that, right? Oh, right.

Jillian Tamaki  51:23  
Right. Right. Had some of that. And I expect there will be more of like sort of these fully grown up people as protagonists,