by Beth C.
Don’t let the cute animals mislead you into assuming that the short stories in Patrick Atangan’s Invincible Days will be sweet and happy childhood reminiscences. On the contrary, the book is an intimate and bittersweet portrait of Atangan’s childhood, with a few stories shared by friends and family. And while Atangan tells a very personal story, the themes of fitting in, family, spirituality, and growing up are all universal, and diverse readers will be able to relate and empathize.
Invincible Days was inspired by Atangan’s belief that “happiness doesn’t necessarily make you who you are today, and it doesn’t necessarily make you a better person. Childhood is very much about struggling, struggling through a world that isn’t necessarily designed for you” (quoted from YouTube video). This is why the stories are narrated by baby animals (or stuffed animal plush toys). The cute kawaii art provides significant contrast with the bittersweet stories and also manages, at least for me, to intensify the sentiment of the stories.
I seriously adore the monkey who is his own one-man tricycle bike gang (panel excerpt on back cover and part of the “Invincible Days of Summer” story). So fierce and sad. The freedom that summer brings — to be a different person, his true self. He feels relaxed and untroubled for awhile. This panel is a beautiful representation of the emotional juxtapositions found in all the short stories from Invincible Days.
In a departure from usually sharing a bit of what’s inside, this time I am not. Invincible Days is a powerful read, and readers should spontaneously experience their emotions as they go through the book, without any spoilers. However, I will share that one comic particularly moved me: “Prayer to Saint Gerard.” I closed the book after reading the short story and thought about it for a long while. The sweet and innocent illustrations are the perfect contrast to such a profound story.
Invincible Days was a project ten years in the making. Atangan originally intended the collection to include one hundred short stories. However, the final edition includes twenty-eight four-page stories. Below are two stories that were cut.
Be sure to get your copy of Invincible Days, as well as other works from Patrick Atangan: