Sunday, 20 April 2014

On Loving Women by Diane Obomsawin Review

On Loving Women is a collection of short comics about Diane Obomsawin’s friends describing how and when they discovered they were lesbians and what the experience was like for them. Obomsawin’s style is very matter-of-fact, presenting the stories very simply both narratively and visually often in a black and white six panel grid with characters drawn with animal heads (perhaps to symbolise their different backgrounds but also could be just whimsy on the author’s part).

Because of this presentation style, there’s no judgement on the many ways that lead the women to being comfortable with their sexuality. The stories show some women realising very early on that they’re gay and embracing it fully, while others go into denial and try to be like other girls and be with boys, though nearly all experiment with identity, swapping out girly clothes for boyish ones, choosing more masculine activities over feminine, even trying different kinds of drugs and lifestyles.

The overall effect is a short book that reveals the complications of figuring out your sexual identity in a society geared toward the traditional male/female dichotomy. The lack of a strong authorial voice kept me from fully engaging with the book and the stories are more-or-less similar after a while, but I can appreciate the positives in having comics like this out there for young girls coming of age and looking for reassurance that they’re not the first lesbians to go through a confusing adolescence.

It’s a fine comic if you like LGBT books but if you’re not into that genre I’d recommend Obomsawin’s first comic, Kaspar, for a better read. It also explores identity using the real life case of Kaspar Hauser, the mysterious story of a 19th century German lad who claimed to have grown up in a totally isolated cell alone and was bizarrely assassinated aged 21.

On Loving Women

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