KT summer reads: Justin Van Leeuwen

Justin Van Leeuwen’s summer reading list features an old favourite from when he worked at his father’s comic book shop. Photo by Ted Simpson.

“I grew up in comics, my dad owned a comic book store, my mom worked in the comic book store, I managed the comic book store for over a decade,” says Hintonburg photographer Justin Van Leeuwen.

So it’s really no surprise that a graphic novel is Van Leeuwen’s summer reading pick.

You might have seen Van Leeuwen’s photos here in KT or on the pages of several other publications or on various posters and adds around Wellington West. Van Leeuwen has also been featured by the Huffington Post for his “Extreme Family Portraits,” a unique take on family photography that goes well beyond anything you would get from a normal portrait studio.

The book he chose to share is Brooklyn Dreams by J.M. DeMatteis, an old favourite from his days at the comic shop.

This is not your stereotypical comic book, with super-powered folks running around in bright coloured spandex.

“This story deals a lot with distortion of reality and perception, and growing up,” says Van Leeuwen. “It’s one of those slice-of-life stories, kind of like Catcher in the Rye except this has a better ending.”

With two young kids running around the house and a Twitter feed full of distractions, Justin finds comics easier to commit to amidst the perils of daily life than a traditional novel.

This thick comic book is filled with black and white drawings that follow a man’s memories of growing up as an alienated youth in 1960’s Brooklyn. The book’s main character works through the perils of adolescent life including drugs, religious parents and the search for meaning. DeMatteis presents some interesting concepts to ponder on a lazy, summer day.

“It has a bit of an existentialist crisis, a guy in his midlife remembering back to his teenage years; is what he remembers real? Does it matter?” says Van Leeuwen.

“Those sort of questions loosen me up, they make me not take things so seriously,” he says.

This post is part of our annual KT summer reads issue. Read all of our other profiles right here.


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