Graphic Memoirs are a bit of a conundrum to me. They are super popular, often incredibly well executed and yet, as I read them I often feel a sense of intense boredom, as I might if anyone were to tell me their entire life story in a monologue, without any kind of break.
Tomboy by Liz Prince hit me square in the middle of my problem area. Prince’s art is quite good, but her life…was my life. I already knew about the feelings, the gender expression issues, and the teasing. Although the details were different, the substance is the same. I wouldn’t bore anyone else with those details – at this point they are 40 years old anyway, what’s the point? So, reading about Prince’s experience with a gender expression at odd with society’s expectations was, for me, a trifle exhausting.
Two things made this book pop for me. The rare moments when Prince stops telling the story to comment on it were exceptional. It’s the adult voice looking back at the child that interested me most. I dealt with 13-year old issues at 13, it’s hard to be terribly enthusiastic about that now. But 31-year old Liz Prince commenting on things that were incongruous…“The irony of being called a farmer while wearing a suit jacket and carrying a leather satchel briefcase was lost on me.”…that was worth reading!
The second stand out feature was, honestly, the very end of the book, when she suddenly realizes that, although she thought she was telling a story about her life and the guys she looked up to and wanted to hang with and be with, she has a sudden epiphany that the story is equally about the women in her life. The girls she emulated, adored, befriended, who guided her and gave her the chance to become who she is. As I read that bit, I – for the first time in my life – had my life flash before me, in a series of memories of all the girls I looked up to, who broke my heart before I knew that was what was happening, who were my best friends until they weren’t and those who were there for me when no one else was.
In that one moment, this book went from good to excellent. Because while I don’t expect everyone to care about me, or my childhood, Liz Prince quite literally pulled it whole out of my brain and laid it out for me to see.
Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – My life, my friends, my experiences and me. 10
Service – 1 on principle
LGBTQ – 5 the narrative is wholly about being gender non-conforming
Overall – 8
So, from one tomboy to another (and who also gets mistaken for a guy about half the time) – Thanks, Liz Prince. Let’s climb a tree together one day. ^_^