A graphic novel, a true story—a life lived underneath the New York City subway system.
How do you tell the story of a life that starts something like this?
I was born to people who didn't want me and so they gave me away. But I guess the people they gave me to didn't want me either. No one wanted me. That's why I ended up on the streets alone and uneducated. I couldn't read or write. I didn't know anything and the whole world knew it.
This is the voice of Anthony Horton. Born in 1968, Anthony is a homeless artist who lived underneath New York City. If you want to see his work, you'll have to walk along the tunnel walls in the darkest parts of the transit system. In 2005, he met Youme Landowne, another artist, there at one of the subway stops and they began to talk. They rode downtown and uptown and downtown again, discussing art and life, and they decided to begin working together. They decided to write a book which would tell Tony's story.
But here was the issue—how do you tell the story of a life that seems so bleak? Or, as Tony might say it, how do you turn your life into art? How do you bring light out of pitch black darkness?
Well, first the whole story had to be told, had to be heard, and that's where Youme comes in. Youme considers part of her art to be her ears—she listens, often long and hard. Her listening ears have taken her all over the world to hear the stories of people who have been marginalized and ignored—Haiti, Laos. SELAVI, Youme's acclaimed picture book, proves that Youme knows how to listen.
And the second part of her art is collaboration. She thrives in the context of public collaborative art.
The graphic novel was the form these two artists chose—rich, beautiful black and white drawings, gritty but tender, dark, with a minimum amount of text, allowing the reader to fill in all the places for which there aren't any words. With art and words from both of them, they map out Anthony's world—a tough one from many perspectives, startling and undoing from others, but from Anthony's point of view, a life lived as art, light infusing the darkness.