|Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned. By Judd Winick. New York: Henry Holt, 2000. 187p. $ . ISBN 0-8050-6403-6.|
The book concludes with a lengthy section of acknowledgments; updates on Pedro's family, his friend Alex, Sean, Pam, and Judd; and donation-accepting AIDS-related organizations, including several in memory of Pedro.
The biography is told in a series of linear chunks arranged in what can only be described as literary order; for example, his own early life is followed by Pedro's early life, followed by the day they moved into the Real World house, followed by "The Little Things," which deals with such day-to-day events as watching Star Trek together, noticing Pedro's hairy feet, and eating fettuccine alfredo. But the arrangement seems appropriate; I never had any trouble following the story or the logic behind it. (Winick credits Pedro with teaching him how to tell a story.)
Of course, the book has a measure of AIDS education material, concentrated mostly in the sections where Pedro or Judd lectures to audiences, or when Pedro talked about casual contact with Judd when they began to room together.
Winick does not devote much time to the circumstances of their life in the Real World house--that is, he doesn't frame each panel with cameras and lights, and he reports conversations as if they took place in the normal atmosphere of a communal house. He also focuses mostly on himself, Pedro, and Pam, with a few mentions of Cory and almost nothing on the other participants, which might be disappointing to fans of those people. (When I described this book to a friend who had seen the show, she immediately asked if Winick had mentioned Rachel and was surprised that she played such a minimal role in the book.)
The black-and-white art is just a little cartoony, mostly in the faces when they express surprise or happiness; otherwise, it's fairly realistic, with very clean lines. Most of the images are straightforward, though Winick does a few interesting things with squares, either in a grid or overlapping in a collage. He depicts conversational pauses and crowd scenes well. And I like the way he usually breaks text up into short chunks of two or three sentences, making it easy to read the pictures and the text at the same time. He's got a good sense of pacing.
An outstanding book in many ways, Pedro and Me was an instant classic when it came out last year and is already considered one of the great comics-format biographies and autobiographies. I heartily endorse this classification. It's a very sad book, but it's also a very positive one, with a terrific message that rarely comes off as preachy. Most highly recommended for adults, teens, and older kids. The frank talk about safe sex may be offputting to conservatives, but who cares what they think if the book saves lives. Information is power--and information is protection.
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