featured | Stories + comics by my daughter: graphic novelist Amy Kurzweil

Short fiction + art exploring identity in a modern, digital world.
October 1, 2016

Dear readers,

My daughter Amy Kurzweil is a graphic novelist, cartoonist, teacher and fiction author. We collaborate on creative projects together. Amy is passionate about helping young adults to thrive through education and is committed to youth enrichment in the arts and sciences. She’s taught in public school for many years, and mentors young adults to explore new talents.

She’s interested in the future of expression — how do people cope with emotion, memory and perception? How do unreal environments, like virtual reality, become visceral, when story crafts reality? She lectures on creative writing and the modern graphic novel at The New School: Parsons School of Design and also the State University of New York: Fashion Institute of Technology.

The website Dr. Doctor is a reading series + podcast featuring literary fiction, non-fiction, poetry and art. Amy has a regular cartoon column on the site called “Gutter Face.” She was interviewed by website hosts Sam Farahmand + Luke Wiget on their weekly podcast. On the Dr. Doctor podcast Amy explained:

“The gutter in comics is the white space between the illustrations, in the margins of the paper. Scott McCloud, who’s a very well known comics theorist talks about the gutter as the space between the panels in comics. It’s the place where your imagination takes hold as a reader, because it’s where you’re linking things together. In comics, the gutter is where you read between the lines and make connections. I guess I don’t use a lot of panels in my comics. I like to have all my drawings in the gutter. And every once in a while a panel is used strategically.

“So I like this idea of something to do with gutters. Something I had to learn painfully as an artist is how many ideas I can have, and how few of them actually turn into something worth reading or writing. My father Ray Kurzweil is an inventor, and my brother works in business also. And my grandfather was a business owner.

“I grew up with this mantra that, first of all, all you need is one good idea. Even though you might have a million, all you need is one. And also, the idea is not so much what’s important but how you execute it. Because there are so many people who have ideas. How you make it work is what counts.

“I write short comics — and then I wrote a long book, a graphic memoir — I also write fiction. A lot of times, things come to me late at night on the subway, something is really inspiring but you don’t really know why. I get that feeling for a project and it will crystallize into a vague end product in my mind, like a dream. You know the feeling when you wake up from a dream, when you can’t quite articulate it but it leaves this impression on you.”

Hobart is a literary magazine that publishes fiction, poetry, interviews + essays. In an interview with Hobart called “What we take with us,” Amy Kurzweil said:

“Memory doesn’t function like a film reel. It functions like a comic strip — a series of snapshots. My personal history includes the inherited experiences of multiple generations. In my short story, the narrator journeys to the Holy Land with a 34 frame, disposable camera.

“In the era of comprehensive digital documentation, it’s a significant decision. The concept of memory is working in this story, through the snapshot symbolism. The protagonist is struggling with many things: her own identity, the concept of meaning, connection to others. I think memory is, in many ways, what makes us who we are. Overlapping personal memory and cultural memory is part of what makes us feel close to others.

“So if we take these snapshots as a metaphor for memory, and we take memory to be something that shapes our identities, the protagonist documenting her trip is making her heritage a part of her identity. Photographs as curated memory is interesting. It’s like when you don’t know whether or not you remember experiencing something or if you just remember seeing the photograph of it. Memory is often replaced by our documentation of it,” Amy Kurzweil concluded.

My own work in artificial intelligence has examined issues like identity, consciousness, memory and what it means to be human. So much of our human experience is sensory, and sensory information is data.

Could humans transfer their experiences to each other like data? Or to a virtual person? Could an AI develop personal identity and cultural memory naturally? If humans started living mostly in virtual environments, immersed in experiences that are digital or synthetic, will those memories feel the same as real reality?

Amy’s debut graphic novel — Flying Couch: a graphic memoir — was published by Catapult Books / Black Balloon Publishing in October 2016 and is available at fine book sellers. She tells the stories of 3 unforgettable women: weaving her own coming of age story as a young Jewish artist into the narrative of her mother, a psychologist — and Bubbe, her grandmother, a World War II survivor who escaped from the Warsaw ghetto by disguising herself as a gentile.

Captivated by Bubbe’s story, Amy turns to her sketchbooks, teaching herself to draw as a way to cope with what she discovers. Entwining the voices and histories of these 3 wise, hilarious, and very different women, Amy creates a portrait not only of what it means to be part of a family, but also of how each generation bears the imprint of the past.

A re-telling of the inherited Holocaust narrative now two generations removed, Flying Couch: a graphic memoir uses Bubbe’s real testimony to investigate the legacy of trauma, the magic of family stories, and the meaning of home. With her playful, idiosyncratic sensibility, Amy traces the way our memories shape who we become. The result is this bold illustrated memoir.

I hope you enjoy Amy’s creations as much as I have!

Ray Kurzweil

on the web | book
Flying Couch: a graphic memoir by Amy Kurzweil. Sold at fine book sellers.

Amy Kurzweil | Flying Couch: a graphic memoir — book details
Amy Kurzweil | Flying Couch: a graphic memoir — book tour

Catapult Books | Flying Couch: a graphic memoir — by Amy Kurzweil
Indie Bound | Flying Couch: a graphic memoir — by Amy Kurzweil

video | book trailer no. 1
video | book trailer no. 2

on the web | celebrations
Awards for the book.

— no. 1 —

publication: Foreword Reviews
year: 2016
award: Foreword Indies Winner | gold
category: family + relationships
type: adult non-fiction

publication: Foreword Reviews
year: 2016
award: Foreword Indies Winner | silver
category: graphic novels + comics
type: adult non-fiction

publication: Foreword Reviews
year: 2016
award: Foreword Indies Winner | finalist
category: auto-biography + memoir
type: adult non-fiction

— no. 2 —

publication: Kirkus Reviews
year: 2016
award: Best Memoirs of 2016
category: memoir
type: non-fiction

— no. 3 —

publication: The New York Times
year: 2016
award: the Season’s Best New Graphic Novels
category: graphic novels
type: new

publication: The New York Times
year: 2017
award: 10 New Books We Recommend This Week | January: week 1
category: editors’ choice
type: new books

— no 4 —

group: Junior Library Guild
year: 2017
award: Great Graphic Novels for Teens
category: graphic novels
type: youth + young adult

— no. 5 —

all about | author Amy Kurzweil
Her stories, teaching + comics.


Amy Kurzweil | main
Amy Kurzweil | book: Flying Couch: a graphic memoir

Amy Kurzweil | Twitter: Amy Kurzweil
Amy Kurzweil | YouTube channel: Amy Kurzweil Comix

Amy Kurzweil | Instagram: Amy Kurzweil
Amy Kurzweil | Instagram: comic: Ray Kurzweil + Amy Kurzweil on stage

published cartoons

Conde Nast • the New Yorker | humor: Daily Shouts by contributor: Amy Kurzweil
Conde Nast • the New Yorker | print collection: comics by artist: Amy Kurzweil

the Huffington Post | author: Amy Kurzweil
Art Slant | profile: Amy Kurzweil

cartoon column + podcast

Dr. Doctor | main
Dr. Doctor | Gutter Face: by Amy Kurzweil • cartoon column
Dr. Doctor | Luke Wiget talks w. resident cartoonist, author: Amy Kurzweilpodcast

interviews + book club

Hobart | What we take with usinterview
The Rumpus | New York Comics + Picture Story Symposiuminterview
Literary Hub | Cartoonist Amy Kurzweil on drawing inherited trauma: memory the holocaust + Flying Couch • interview

Argot magazine | Book Club in the Time of Trump: Flying Couch: a graphic memoir • book discussion

teaching + symposia

the New School: Parsons School of Design | main
the New School: Parsons School of Design | Amy Kurzweil

New York Comics + Picture Story Symp. | main
New York Comics + Picture Story Symp. | Decaying sense, how comics compose memory: by Amy Kurzweil • talk

published short stories

Virginia Commonwealth Univ.: Blackbird | This Is a Love Story by Amy Kurzweil • short story
Washington + Lee Univ.: Shenandoah | A List of Names for Our First Born Child by Amy Kurzweil • short story
New York Univ.: Washington Square Review | Quantum Theory + Entanglement of Oolongshort story

about | bio for Amy Kurzweil

Amy Kurzweil is an emerging cartoonist, graphic novelist and fiction writer. She graduated with a Masters in writing from The New School.

She was Norman Mailer Fellow for fiction writing. Her book Flying Couch: a graphic memoir was her graduate thesis. Her short fiction has been published in Shenandoah, Hobart, Blackbird, The Toast and Washington Square.

Her comics have appeared in Hot Street and Short, Fast & Deadly and weekly with Dr. Doctor. Her debut book Flying Couch: a graphic memoir is published  by Black Balloon Publishing, an imprint of Catapult Books.

Amy Kurzweil teaches writing and comics at The New School: Parsons School of Design and the State University of New York: Fashion Institute of Technology. Her studies reflect on integrative approaches to life that relate to human awareness, memory, perception in virtual environments, and personal experiences through the lens of shifting identity and situations.

Her concepts interact with future studies. She touches on new ways of sensing reality — including through virtual or augmented reality — and she considers difficult questions. What is human identity and where does it come from? How are memories created and why? How is experience interpreted?






A YALSA “Great Graphic Novels for Teens” selection, 2016

Excerpt in Lilith Magazine, Fall 2016

courses | on comics + memory
Classes taught by Amy Kurzweil, lecturer.

The New School: Parsons School of Design — integrative seminar

This class taught by Amy Kurzweil explores the goals and texture of new media in modern times. Outline of the lecture series:

Avatar — Avatar has two distinct meanings. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it means the physical appearance of a god. Online, it means a picture of a person or an animal that represents a particular user. How do both definitions describe an identity that is distinct from the original and yet intensely connected to it at the same time?

Memory — Memory is an action or process of commemorating, recollecting, or remembering a person, object or event. How do these actions and processes shape identity and our understanding of the world?

Fake — Fake describes something that is not what it appears to be. Counterfeit bags, forged money, stage names, mockumentaries, pranking, the list goes on. But how do we define what is real and what is fake? Could something fake actually be more powerful, more authentic, than truth?

Shift — To shift means to move from one place, or one thing, to another. Many of you have firsthand experience with this kind of movement — from one place to another, from one set of ideas to another, from one story to another. What are your stories of shifting? How do these shifts come to pass? How do we talk about them through our work?

college courses | on comics + memory
Classes created by Amy Kurzweil, lecturer.

State University of New York: Fashion Institute of Technology — the Graphic Novel

Students read works of the comics medium with an eye to their literary qualities, their complexity, their creative use of this age old form. How has form and content in these works evolved over time? How is the form of a given book working? How can we borrow techniques from these authors for our own artistic practice?

the New School: Parsons School of Design — Comics + Memory

Students explore the unique way comics map memory in order to tell stories about the past. Students will learn and borrow the graphic storytelling techniques of non-fiction comic masters. Students read, analyze and imitate writers. They look at the impact, intended or otherwise, of the comics — what effect does the relaying of memory have on the writers’ own lives and on the world around them?

Beginning with individual memory, moving to familial memory, through cultural memory, and finally to global memory. How, why, and to what effect is memory documented by these graphic masters, and how can we use their techniques for our own remembered stories?


more posts with Amy on this site

Letters from Ray | Future artificial intelligence acceptance or fear: with Amy Kurzweil
Letters from Ray | Supporting women in the sciences and technology: with Amy Kurzweil
on stage | Women at the Frontier • Ray Kurzweil interviewed by daughter Amy Kurzweil

listen | podcast
Episode on Dr. Doctor w. Amy Kurzweil.

Dr. Doctor | episode: no. 41 — listen to the podcast w. Amy Kurzweil

about this episode | Dr. Doctor is a reading series + podcast featuring literary fiction, non-fiction, poetry and art. An interview with doctor Amy Kurzweil, as conducted by doctor Sam Farahmand — in which they talk all things: “Gutter Face” her weekly comic featured on Dr. Doctor, ambience and the pronunciation of ambience, comics in general, meta-fiction in meta-general, the comic writer’s life, Sam’s encounter with Dame Claire Dames, and Amy’s book Flying Couch: a graphic memoir.

description: Dr. Doctor

listen | podcast
Episode on Dr. Doctor w. Amy Kurzweil.

Dr. Doctor | episode: no. 57 — listen to the podcast w. Amy Kurzweil

about this episode | The first and final reading of the season brought together a line-up unlike any other the doctors have lined-up. Laughs provided by live studio audience at Mellow Pages: Summer Vacation at the Silent Barn. Forced laughs provided by Luke.

Will Chancellor • fiction  |  Meredith Graves • non-fiction  |  Amy Kurzweil • graphic memoir

description: by Dr. Doctor

Mellow Pages: main
about: library and reading room for small + independent presses

Mellow Pages: Summer Vacation
about: pop-up library feat. a curated selection of indie press books + magazines
venue: Silent Barn

Silent Barn: main
Silent Barn: working stewdios
about: nightly shows, artists-in-residence, studio tenants, community outreach