Book Review

We Were Younger Once by Kiona Callihoo Ligtvoet

lovely graphic memoir from a small Canadian indie

We Were Younger Once is a beautiful 2022 graphic novella/memoir from Nova Scotia’s Conundrum Press.

It’s a short piece, around 50 pages (I think, there are no page numbers and I read the whole thing while in the queue at Tottenham Hale Halfords waiting to get the pedals replaced on my bike) of hand drawn and hand written memories of recent and childhood trips to her grandfather’s land, away from the (unless I missed it?) unnamed city where she now lives.

Subtly and gently discussing the long term repercussions of exploitation and theft/displacement enacted against Ligtvoet’s ancestors by the racist white settler Canadian government, the book, too, is about the persistent connections between place and identity and the importance – ethically, emotionally – of indigenous access to traditional lands.

In a microcosm of centuries of colonial history, Ligtvoet discusses the slow (though not complete – this is not a text about total grief) break up of her family’s land: the field where her mother had always dreamed of building a home is sold on and some white yuppies instead build and raise a family there instead… things are lost, but not everything is lost and some of, many of, the things that remain are still good things.

Lingvoet recalls listening to Jagged Little Pill on a Sony Discman and dreaming of future heartbreaks; she recalls burying her childhood dog on the family land next to the graves of dead animals she had buried years before when death was less affecting; she recalls growing out of the playhouse her grandfather had sourced secondhand, the ghosts of other children in its wooden walls; she and her siblings and cousins look for animals, they fall from trees and break a bone or two, they forage for berries and fruits, they play and they grow and they learn from the land and they learn from their grandfather, passing in and out of his home at various times and with varying intensity.

There’s a melancholic streak to it, too, though maybe I’m projecting because the only thing from my own past I miss is a sense of hope?

It’s about loss, it’s about generational trauma but it is also about family and love.

When We Were Younger is a beautiful, small book whose handwritten text and sometimes beautifully detailed drawings, sometimes quick but decisively drawn sketches clearly and distinctly depict memory and personhood and a sense of home and a sense of self.

It’s lovely, and I definitely recommend it.

Order directly from Conundrum Press. is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

0 comments on “We Were Younger Once by Kiona Callihoo Ligtvoet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: