Cover Image: Zodiac


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Member Reviews

An interesting memoir in graphic form. I learned about the zodiac and how it relates to real life. Art is activism!

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A kind of autobiographical manifesto, as Ai talks to his son, other family members and fellow artists about art, freedom of speech, and a lot of other subjects that can be crammed on to the framework provided by the Chinese zodiac. It's fine, but don't come here thinking he drew a line of it. Three and a half stars – not as populist as you might expect.

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I went into this graphic novel blind and I'm glad that I did. I had never heard of this artist and it was so interesting to read about his life. The illustration in this book were some of the best that I've seen in a graphic novel in quite awhile. Even the background illustrations were beautifully rendered.

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I'd like to thank the publisher for providing me with an ARC.

I struggled with reading this one. Like some other reviewers, I had a hard time following what was going on. There was some jumping around in the narrative that made it difficult to understand what was going on. I appreciate what the author was trying to do and despite having some issues with understanding, I do think this is a book worth trying.

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An intriguing graphic memoir that brilliantly blends memoir, political history, and Chinese mythology with immersive art. Ai Weiwei explores his childhood during the Cultural Revolution under political exile and searching for truth in political propaganda through sections inspired by the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac. It's a one-of-a-kind book with a unique, unforgettable perspective.

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It’s a beautiful way to write a memoir. I would definitely recommend this graphic novel. It’s a warm, fun read and would make a good coffee table book

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I think trying to rate a graphic book is a bad idea for me (vision issues). Not the book's fault so maybe you should delete my review.

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I found Zodiac very inaccessible, which may be due to me being not that familiar with Ai Weiwei's work. This memoir may have been created primarily for his fans, but from my perspective it was barely intelligible. Even though I understand we're presented with vignettes from Weiwei's life, I had a hard time following each chapter, with conversations seemingly randomly jumping from topic to topic. At times it even felt like Weiwei tried to advertise his creations rather than explain the story behind them. The art style and layout didn't help much; panels were largely the same size throughout, speech bubbles were often placed confusingly and the overall art ended up being kind of bland, even though some illustration had great composition, only let down by the barebones linework.

I have to say that Zodiac made me wanna check out some of Ai Weiwei's work and read up on Chinese history. I also liked the structure in conjunction with the zodiac fable as well as the overall glimpses into Chinese culture, what art means to Ai Weiwei and some of his contemporaries and the inextricable link between art and politics. To be honest, I don't feel equipped to adequately review the contents of this graphic memoir because I don't think I'm the target audience, but I do wish Zodiac would be more accessible for people not familiar with Weiwei. Ultimately, it's more of a 2.5- than a 3 star-read for me, but fans of Ai Weiwei might absolutely love it.

- ARC provided by NetGalley -

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I have been following Ai Weiwei's artwork for years, so I was incredibly excited to see this book come across my feed. I have so many thoughts and feelings about this incredible graphic memoir. This novel is easier to understand if you are familiar with some of Ai's featured works - Fairytale, Sunflower Seeds, etc - but it is accessible to those unfamiliar with him. Before reading this, I wasn't familiar with the Chinese Zodiac, but it is laid out in a way that is accessible for the reader and frames Ai's life in a very structured way. The art is well done overall, though the black and white ( and line weight) is a bit overwhelming in places. Overall, I enjoyed the art in this graphic novel, but a color version would have been more engaging. Of course, I loved the cats throughout. The messaging within the novel is simultaneously distressing and soothing. The throughline of paternal relationships (between of Ai's father Qing, Ai, and his son Lao) holds the narrative together and is incredibly impactful. The book maintains Ai's constantly calm demeanor and is somehow gentle while describing some terrible situations and human atrocities. Overall, Ai's reflections on his early years and relationship with his father are warm memories from a very difficult life. There is no way I could faithfully articulate how meaningful and artistically this story was laid out, but it was an incredible graphic novel that I recommend to anyone.

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Ai Weiwei tells us his life, his values, and explains Chinese culture through colorful idioms (playing the zither for a cow, really?) and parallels between recent history and the tales of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. Gianluca Constantini’s drawings are fabulous, perfect for the fables therein.

#1 - The mouse and freedom of speech and thought - Ai Weiwei’s father being punished for his poetry under both regimes, Mao banning books, and the fable that explains why the cat isn’t in the zodiac.

#2 - The cow and love - childhood in exile, son of an enemy of the state, porcelain sunflowers, and Vega and Altair’s forbidden love.

#3 - The tiger and courage - police interrogatories, Liu Xiaobo’s 1989 hunger strike and poetry as a tool of resistance.

#4 - The rabbit and immortality - why artists work, Joseph Beuys’s performance art, writing a fairytale alongside 1001 people, and the fable of the sleeping rabbit.

#5 - The dragon and power - hutong and collecting art, individual vs society, flying a kite in the Forbidden City, and the fable of the painter that loved dragons.

#6 - The snake, doubts and resilience - the Hundred Flowers movement, the three acceptable types of human beings during the cultural revolution, the Sichuan earthquake and the legend of the white snake.

#7 - The horse and discovery - Ferdinand Verbiest aka Nan Huairen, art changes perception, and the legend of the silkworm.

#8 - The sheep and community - pollution in Beijing, police violence in New York, the most powerful tool to change the world, and the return.

#9 - The monkey and trickery - wild years of youth, artistic success, exhibitions being censored and shut down, and the legend of the monkey king.

#10 - The rooster and self-worth - Wittgenstein, the tomb of Genghis Khan, the Ordos 100 utopia, hairstyles, guanxi and the weird connection between Beijing’s Olympic Stadium, loyalty and the cultural revolution.

#11 - The dog and hope - Hsieh Tehching and Pablo Neruda, finding a stick to beat a dog, the gang of four’s fall in 1976 and surviving nostalgia.

#12 - The pig and egoism - smog, police, brain tumors, mending holes before it’s too late and a one-finger farewell.

Disclaimer: I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. This didn't influence my opinion in any way.

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I wept. So much. The layout, the research, I love it. I went into this graphic novel pretty blind, but I found the artwork and overall narrative to be truly breathtaking

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Another change of pace from my usual readings, a graphic memoir. "Zodiac" by Ai Weiwei with Elettra Stamboulis and featuring the fantastic imagery and illustrations of Gianluca Constantini
This was done quite beautifully with the illustrations and almost poetical tie-in with the Chinese Zodiac in the way its related in story of Weiweis life. Frustrating and unnerving as it was, you know, those times when you read or see what happens to other people and you have a whole array of emotions...
I remember seeing Weiweis Circle of Animals/Zodiac heads at the Cleveland Museum of Art and spending on several occasions a very lengthy amount of time admiring them. A rather fun coincidence that I was able to view those and then to read in this memoir what a vital role it all plays in his life story and to see these sculptures as images throughout the book.
I'm not extremely versed in Weiweis life, this makes me want to read more about him, but Im recommending this one for a glimpse into it.

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Thank you NetGalley and Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed Press for a copy of this ARC to review.

This graphic memoir is a great introduction to the artist Ai Weiwei. He shares different parts of his life, art, philosophy and beliefs during conversations with his family and friends, with each chapter inspired by the characteristics of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. I originally wasn't a fan of the artwork and had hoped for some colour throughout. But, after I finished reading it, I think having colour might distract from the message of the memoir and the starkness of the black and white illustrations better suits this work.

Don't be fooled into thinking little is said and conveyed because this is a graphic novel. Each chapter will leave you thinking as you contemplate his hope that we recognise artists efforts to protect freedom of speech and expression and that art is the fight for freedom.

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It's complex and thought-provoking in a way that I was not expecting but should have been obvious based on who wrote it. There is a lot to unpack from it, from history and art to personal stories and political issues, it is not a book one picks up for a quick read.

The art is impressively detailed and complex, to the point that I lost the thread of the words a couple of times simply because I got lost in the panels. It might sound like a bad thing, but it weirdly works with the overall theme of art philosophizing that Ai Weiwei tells throughout.

Special thanks to Ten Speed Graphic for the review copy!

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Balance. This book achieves a striking balance between words and drawings that makes you pay attention to both. Ai Weiwei addresses memory, politics, art, folklore and mythology and no one topic overwhelms the others. There are statements that will grab you, but they don’t detract from the whole. This book disproves any idea that a graphic form of narrative is dumbed down or lazy. It’s memorable and yet I want to read it many more times.

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this eARC.

Zodiac is a graphic memoir which visits moments in the legendary artist Ai Weiwei's life through the lens of the Chinese zodiac.

In all honesty, I didn't know much about Ai Weiwei before going into this book, and from a facts-about-his-life standpoint, I still think I know very little. But rather than mundane personal details, Zodiac delves instead into philosophical perspectives, into the concepts of freedom and intellect and art. I may not know much about Ai Weiwei, but this was certainly a thought-provoking and stunning glimpse into the way his mind works.

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Artist Ai Weiwei has risen to global prominence by creating memorably striking works of art, often on a very large scale, that bring attention to a variety of global injustices with a particular focus on those committed by his native China. As one can imagine, the Chinese government is less than thrilled about being depicted in anything approaching a negative light, and so Weiwei was at one time taken into custody and then ultimately placed on house arrest for several years, before being able to move to Europe in 2015.

In Zodiac, a memoir in graphic novel form, he recounts significant moments from his life, ranging from his childhood in the Chinese countryside to the reaction towards some of his art installations to the treatment he received from his own country. Presented in lovely pen-and-ink style drawings by the Italian comic artist Gianluca Costantini, the book is structured as if he is relaying these stories to his young son, mixing them in with folklore oriented around the animals of the Chinese zodiac calendar. This allows the narrative to jump back and forth in time, focusing on themes and ideas rather than a strict chronological retelling, much as a real conversation might.

Anyone seeking a deeper knowledge of his life would be better served looking elsewhere, but it definitely feels like readers will come away knowing more about his philosophy. His thoughts about artistic expression and our right to it, along with the very essence of human nature are quite interesting, though it would be nice to see them fleshed out a bit further. Lovely to look at and entertaining to read, Zodiac is a nice treat for fans of Ai Weiwei and will also serve as a good introduction for those who are less familiar with the artist.

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Thank you NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. (full review to come)

I'm not a big fan of this art style, but I think it fits with the overall tone of the book, and lends itself well to conveying the stories. The concept of telling a story related to each animal of the zodiac is an interesting one; however, I feel some of the stories are well-assigned to its corresponding zodiac animal, while others had only a tenuous connection between the story and its zodiac.

Overall, this graphic novel gave some interesting insights into the mind of its author and his life. Also I read about the author's history with oppression from the Chinese government, and also the various causes that he speaks up for, most recently in support of Gaza, and I whole-heartedly support him, because he is right.

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Ai Weiwei is a man of many talents. an artist, political activist, poet, photographer, architect, filmmaker. He has been very vocal in his criticism of the Chinese government, been imprisoned, beaten and detained. Zodiac is his first biographical graphic novel. Telling twelve stories from Ai's life each identified by an animal from the Chinese Zodiac.

The book opens with Mouse, Ai is speaking with his father about books. They are in a labor camp, his father, a poet, was banished to the camp in the far northwest of China for speaking against the government. The only books that the Chinese people had were by Mao Zedong or by Enver Hoxha. Each story builds a picture of these pivotal moments in Ai Weiwei's life that made him the courageous man he is.

That one man coming from such humble origins can do so much is an inspiration. No one should ever say what can one man do? He can do a lot!

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Brilliantly written and drawn! I am a big fan of Ai Weiwei and I like the unique approach he took in writing his memoir. I'm sure the physical copy of this book will be even more brilliant!

Thank you NetGalley for the digital ARC. All opinions are my own.

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