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Book Review :: Diana by Sivan Piatigorsky-Roth

Diana: My Graphic Obsession by Sivan Piatigorsky-Roth book cover image

Sivan Piatigorsky-Roth’s Diana: My Graphic Obsession made me realize that Diana holds a fairly firm place in my life experience. Having practically grown up with her, at least in news stories, I was surprised to have so many of Roth’s graphic renditions of famous photographs strike one memory chord after another. Most surprising is to see her life anew, through Roth’s insightful yet somewhat melancholy commentary, like the fact that Diana was only 16 years old when she first met Charles, who was then 29. Roth comments, “He was the very embodiment of charm. Standing next to him, Diana was just a child. His attention was overwhelming.”

Diana inside image 1

Roth is quick to examine their relationship, siding, as can be expected, more with the psyche of Diana, “The problem with Diana’s sort of sensitivity is that it was especially attractive to those who could not return it.” Roth presents Diana again and again as just a child, as when she sits up on her messy bed at night with friends contemplating the marriage proposal she knows is forthcoming. It makes my own heart ache for her youthful innocence – knowing, of course, how it all goes down over the years that follow.

Roth’s approach both examines and memorializes, interspersing commentary on their own ‘obsession’ with Diana, the attraction to her individual humanity but to the role she took in supporting so many socio-global concerns. As Roth notes, “Diana became increasingly involved in charities focused on illness, particularly leprosy and AIDS. Illnesses of shame, of bodily fear, and of intense isolation.” Roth explores the iconography of Diana, “Her humanity. Her whiteness. The blinding whiteness of the page around her. Her femininity. The way she evokes history and carries it with her. Her beauty.” In their obsession, Roth creates a self-portrait while drawing Diana, “I draw and draw her. I clip out reference images. I try my hand at rendering her in every style I can think of.”

Diana inside image 2

Roth’s style is consistent, using minimal lines, background, and color, focusing mainly on human subjects. Roth developed a keen method of capturing Diana both in her youth and as she aged, through her difficult struggles with pregnancy, media pressure, and mental health, as well as when she was released from her marriage to Charles and was allowed to develop her personality more fully and freely. Roth also includes snippets from their own personal experiences of transitioning, seeing Diana “as a gay icon” and seeing themselves in her, as well as “The heart of the web I connect to everything else. She is my reference point. She brings me into community.”

The closing image of Roth’s biography/memoir got me to smile while at the same time welling up with tears. Never in my life would I have made the kinds of connections Roth showed me in this biographical “obsession,” allowing me a newfound appreciation for having shared my life with such an incredible icon as Princess Diana. Roth slowly strips away the media-frenzied perspective to offer a respectful, deeply personal consideration of what Diana symbolized, both in her life and in the legacy that so many of us must recognize has been entwined with our own lives.

Diana: My Graphic Obsession by Sivan Piatigorsky-Roth. Street Noise Books, June 2023.

Reviewer bio: Denise Hill is Editor of NewPages.com and reviews books she chooses based on her own personal interests.

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