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Alejandra Castro recommends ‘Dragman’ by Steven Appleby

“My relationship with reading is rather strange. I’m very visual and have a short attention span. That’s why I read mostly graphic novels. Information comes to me through images more easily. But there are moments in my life when I really read a lot. I like Latin-American literature because I’m from there myself. I have to feel a connection, you see.”

Illustratie van Levi Jacobs voor 1 Stad, 19 Boeken (2021) © Muntpunt
Name Alejandra Castro
Occupation / function / organisation
(what do you do in daily life?)
Visual artist and graphic designer
Municipality Evere
Nationality Colombian
Age 26
Member of the Flemish Brussels library of  Muntpunt
Favourite reading spot in Brussels National library & parcs
Favourite drink while reading Colombian coffee

– You are a Colombian living in Brussels. Why Brussels?
It wasn’t so much a choice, I just ended up here. I was in Europe and came to see some friends here in Brussels. I immediately really liked the city. Also, I was looking around for Master’s Degree programmes and was accepted at Luca School of Arts. I did my Master’s in Media and Information Design. After graduating, I decided to stay on in Brussels .

– How do you like Evere?
I lived in Schaarbeek before, near Meiser, and liked it very much. I think Schaarbeek is my favourite neighbourhood. But some friends and I decided to rent a house together, so we found ourselves in Evere. True, it’s really suburban and we are young and love being surrounded by a vibrant community. But we have a big house and a garden. A small garden, but still a garden (laughs). And there’s room for four people. I think it would be difficult to find that anywhere else in Brussels. And now we want a dog (laughs).

– You work as a visual artist and graphic designer. I suppose you are used to working from home.
Yes, I work as a freelance graphic designer. I usually work from home. Before the pandemic I was considering more options, like working for a company. But I chose to work as a freelancer. That might change at some point… Anyway, even if I did get a job with a company, I’d probably keep working from home. At least during COVID-19, I guess.

I have two degrees, in fine arts and graphic design. I have both spectrums. Before COVID-19 I did more work in the artistic field. I feel there were more chances to exhibit and work in collab with other people back then. That’s pretty hard right now, which means I’ve shifted my focus more on design.

– Your art… is it drawing?
Drawing, illustration, animation. In Colombia I used to work as a sculptor too. But coming here to a new country, you don’t really have the resources for sculpting. For starters you need space. So, I had to abandon that dream. But at some point, I’d love to return to it.

– Have you ever illustrated a book?
I’ve illustrated magazines. But I like doing my own projects. I made a calendar for this year, and postcards, birth cards. I sell them myself. But I have never done a book.

– Can you imagine yourself creating your own graphic novel?
Yes, but it would be different. Perhaps not too long and more like a magazine. I can’t see myself creating a book like Dragman. It’s too much of the same work. I like to work on different projects, in different areas. But maybe in time that will change.

– Why did you choose Dragman?
The name of the book caught my attention. I didn’t have any idea what it was about. Also, it was one of the few books in English on the list. I speak a bit of French and Dutch, but I can’t read it fluently. In English, that’s way better.

– What is the book about?
It is about August Crimp, a man who loves to dress up like a woman and gets superpowers when he does. He becomes part of a superhero league as Dragman, a transwoman. He quits this world to have a wife and child. At some point, he becomes Dragman again and all superheroes develop a joint mission to bring back people’s souls. A scientist discovered the soul, you see. Of course, once discovered you can market them, start buying and selling souls. Now a big company owns the souls. Dragman and his partner Dog Girl want to rescue people’s souls.

– What do you like about the book?
The story is quite interesting because it has so many different points of view. A lot of things happen at the same time. That’s incredibly interesting for a graphic novel, because normally you see two or three stories at the most in one book. This was done very well. You can follow all the stories and not get lost. You start connecting the dots as you read.

– As a visual artist, what do you think of the drawing?
I really like the drawing style. This ‘fast drawing’ kind of style is a lot like my own style. It’s very dynamic, with interesting colours and shapes. The last page I love the most.

– What does reading mean to you?
My relationship with reading is rather strange. I’m very visual and have a short attention span. That’s why I read mostly graphic novels. Information comes to me through images more easily. But there are moments in my life when I really read a lot. I like Latin-American literature because I’m from there myself. I have to feel a connection, you see. I discover new books through recommendations, for example on Goodreads.

– Was there anyone in your youth who inspired you to read?
Yes, my grandmother. She reads a lot and that inspired me. I could see she found peace when she was reading. Now that she’s older and suffering a bit from dementia, she sleeps with her books. I think that’s very poetic. I used to read books with her, complex books like One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez. I like Garcia Marquez, and Bolaño, Maria Vargas Llosa, Borges, Cortazar, etc. And poetry, too.
I don’t have a collection of books. I give them away. But I do have my own treasures, like a collection of my favourite comic – Calvin and Hobbes.

Text: Timothy Anthonis

Dragman / Steven Appleby
Vertaling Joost Pollmann
Uitgeverij Podium, 2020
336 pagina's

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Dit interview is deel van 1 Stad, 19 Boeken (2021) – een project van de Brusselse bibliotheken en Muntpunt.