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Claudia Dominguez, William Nericcio (Photo: Sandy Huffaker) Claudia Dominguez, William Nericcio (Photo: Sandy Huffaker)

Graphic Memories

"More Than Money," the first graphic novel from SDSU Press, is a true story of corruption and lawlessness experienced in Mexico.
By Coleen Geraghty

This story is featured in the spring 2019 issue of 360: The Magazine of San Diego State University.

The characters in Claudia Dominguez’s graphic novel aren’t superheroes. They are an ordinary family living through a harrowing ordeal.

In the spring of 2013, Dominguez’s father was kidnapped in Mexico City, held for four days and then released for ransom. A year went by before she allowed herself to revisit the traumatic episode. When she did, Dominguez, a university-educated artist, began to paint the story of those four days and realized its narrative power.

In a “sheer act of will” and lacking any professional writing chops, Dominguez chronicled the family’s experience with minimal text and stark imagery. On a deeper level, her story is also a lens into the corruption and lawlessness that taints everyday life in Mexico.

“I knew it was important for this story to be in people’s homes,” said Dominguez, who studied sculpture and fiber arts. “As a graphic novel, it would be accessible to everyone, and the form gave me freedom to grow as an artist. I felt I couldn’t fail as long as I finished.”

How Dominguez’s novel, “More Than Money,” came to be published by San Diego State University Press is a story of resolve and vision. Dominguez’s resolve and William Nericcio’s vision.

Riveting tale 

Nericcio is a professor of English and comparative literature and director of SDSU Press, founded more than 60 years ago as San Diego State College Press. Dedicated to scholarship in border studies, experimental literature, cultural studies and critical theory, SDSU Press counts Jane Goodall and Noam Chomsky among its published authors.

From the initial reading, Nericcio found Dominguez’s manuscript riveting. “I couldn’t believe it was her first book,” he said.

An aficionado of comics and experimental novels, Nericcio had been tracking the growing number of university publishers championing graphic narratives. With approval from the SDSU Press board of editors, he created a new division, Amatl Comix, with Dominguez’s book as its premiere publication.

To give the book critical heft, Nericcio asked friends in academia to contribute to the project. Frederick Luis Aldama, Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of English at The Ohio State University, wrote a foreword.

Sam Cannon, Bruce and Steve Simon Professor of Language and Literature at Louisiana State University Shreveport, wrote an afterword in which he compared Dominguez’s watercolor drawings with the murals of David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco.

The publication of “More Than Money” by SDSU Press affords the book singular status in the graphic novel universe. Pop culture has become a serious field of study at universities, and Dominguez said she is thrilled to have contributed. She’s currently working on a second graphic novel about a young girl in Mexico City who rebels against family and societal expectations after a series of empowering adventures with an underground feminist group.  

Dominguez’s entire family now lives in the United States. Although the kidnapping remains a painful memory, Dominguez and her father have returned Mexico City as tourists. Each visit, she said, “fills me up” with affection for the culture and traditions of her native country.

About SDSU Press

SDSU Press is an independent scholarly press and the oldest publishing house in the California State University system. Its divisions and imprints specialize in manuscripts focused on border studies, critical theory, literary criticism, Latin American studies, cultural studies and now, comics.

Although its primary audiences are universities and libraries, SDSU Press has increased sales to the public over the last two years by making its books available through Amazon.