Mia Kirshner on ‘I Live Here’
Mia Kirshner is best known for her work as a television and film actress. She has played leading roles in Love and Human Remains, Exotica and The Crow: City of Angels as well as the award-winning television series 24. In 2008, Kirshner published I Live Here with Random House/Pantheon. In the book, she documents women and children refugees in Chechnya, Ciudad Juárez and Malawi. It was co-produced with Adbusters collaborators Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons and features comic and graphic work by Joe Sacco and Phoebe Gloeckner. Proceeds from I Live Her Here go to Amnesty International. Kirschner studied Russian literature and 20th-century film industry at McGill University in Montreal.
Question: What inspired the project?
Kirshner: It started about 7 years ago and I found myself in a very funny position that perhaps and people can relate to is that I was working. I had a comfortable life, but I felt kind of dead inside, just creatively disconnected and very disturbed at that and felt quite ungrateful for that, and September 11th happened. And the more I began to read, the more I began to realize how ignorant I was to the rest of the world and sort of frightened at the level of my own ignorance, and perhaps how it contributed to in a teeny way the direction in which the world is going in. And it was sort of one of those life bulb moments where I was just like I have to change my life and I’m really not using my skills at properly. And so, I did a lot of research for about a year, came up with the idea for the book, put together this kind of mock book were I felt like, first of all, what I saw especially after 9/11 and now actually is when you read the news especially the front page, you’ll see explosions and ruble and bodies but very rarely do you know about the life in between. So, the goal was to have displaced person speak for themselves and right for themselves and document their life and have graphic novels woven throughout.
Question: What is the book about?
Kirshner: It’s basically about voiceless persons allover the world. People who’ve live in extremities and basically the book’s goal was to find this hidden sort of allusive stories that popular media doesn’t cover like underage women in brothels speaking for themselves, how are they feeling about their lower half, child recently escaped child soldiers from Burma, you know, the family of a woman who was in Juarez who was found murdered in the field, the cotton field, and children story about HIV/AIDS in Malawi and it was basically to bring forward these issues that are actually, I believe, our issues and affect all of us eventually into a popular form and like a much more a mainstream format.
Question: What should readers take away from your book?
Kirshner: I mean, first of all, I think that on a personal level, you know, after so many years of working on this book, I realized that my ignorance is a form of active abandonment of these issues and I think that I do feel now a responsibility to not be ignorant and to educate myself. And I think that these stories actually, like locally, I hope that people who read this book and realized that in many ways this book is a metaphor for what exists in our own communities and I think, you know, art elevates our humanity. I really believe that and I’d like to think that people can be inspired by what they see in this book and perhaps seek these stories out in their own community. Obviously, the book needs to get out there as a way of talking about what’s going on in Burma and Chechnya and Malawi and Juarez in each country in each… It’s really outrageous what’s going on and I’m hoping for a grassroots movement to begin, to begin to move these stories and finally take some action to get to stop these things.
Mia Kirshner wanted to give a voice to the voiceless via a graphic novel.