Purdue Cancer Culture & Community program to celebrate release of graphic novel 'Lafayette: Our Cancer Year'

August 24, 2011

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's Cancer Culture & Community program in Discovery Park will celebrate the release of the graphic novel "Lafayette: Our Cancer Year" with a reception and free book signing from 4-6 p.m. Friday (Aug. 26) at BlueMoon Comics in Lafayette.

"Lafayette: Our Cancer Year" is a compilation of true stories by members of the Lafayette-West Lafayette community who contributed as cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, friends and relatives through the Purdue program led by the Oncological Sciences Center. Local artists and writers transformed these stories into short graphic novels, showing a wide range of tales, styles and emotion.

Free copies of the 141-page book will be distributed during the event at BlueMoon Comics, located at 20 1/2 South 16th St. Several contributors to "Lafayette: Our Cancer Year" are scheduled to attend and will sign the books.

The motivation behind this book was the autobiographic work "Our Cancer Year" by Harvey Pekar, who pioneered an unembellished storytelling mode for graphic novels and illness. Joyce Brabner, Pekar's wife and co-author, wrote the introduction for "Lafayette: Our Cancer Year."

" 'Lafayette: Our Cancer Year' continues the legacy of the late Harvey Pekar by letting everyday people -- our friends and neighbors -- tell stories others can relate to directly," said Kris Swank, a contributor to "Lafayette: Our Cancer Year and director of the Oncological Sciences Center's Cancer Culture & Community program

Rosanne Altstatt, who edited "Lafayette: Our Cancer Year," said Brabner's moving and personal introduction was a tremendous addition to the book.

"Joyce Brabner provided an introduction that astounds in its plain honesty of this ordinary-extraordinary pair loving and bamboozling each other into getting through cancer," said Altstatt, an art historian in the Lafayette community who is associated with Purdue.

Copies of the graphic novel also are available through the Purdue Center for Cancer Research for a requested donation of $15 to help fund cancer research. For more information, contact Tim Bobillo, director of development for the cancer center, at bobillo@purdue.edu, or 201 S. University St. in West Lafayette.

After Friday, a free PDF version of "Lafayette: Our Cancer Year" can be downloaded by going to: www.purdue.edu/cancerstories.

In November 2010, Brabner and illustrator Frank Stack visited Purdue as part of the Cancer Culture & Community Colloquium to discuss their work on "Our Cancer Year." The book-length comics narrative, published in 1994, chronicles Pekar's diagnosis and treatment for lymphoma in 1990 and other events that year.

Pekar died on July 12, 2010, at age 70, ending his decades-long battle with cancer. He had been scheduled to participate in the colloquium.

"Our Cancer Year" won the 1995 Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album of Original Work. That work and stories from Pekar's "American Splendor" series, which portray his life as a U.S. Department of Veterans clerk, provided the basis for the popular 2003 film, "American Splendor."

Discovery Park's Oncological Sciences Center, in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts, launched the annual Cancer Culture & Community initiative in 2007 to explore how the arts and literature provide an outlet of expression to those struggling with cancer. 

Writer:  Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Sources:  Kris Swank, 765-494-4674, kswank@purdue.edu

                   Rosanne Altstatt, 765-409-2666, rosanne.altstatt@gmail.com