Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir
by Liz Prince (Zest, 2014)

Liz Prince grew up, as nearly every girl has, being told that there is only one way to be a girl, and that being a girl is inherently less valuable than being a boy. Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir isn't really about gender identity, though, as much as it's about forced socialization in American society. Most of those enculturated norms happen to involve gender. There are millions of girls whose approach to life is not in accordance with the Rules of Girls, who probably qualify as "tomboys." This highly relatable collection of autobiographical stories takes on roles and expectations with unflinching and heartbreaking honesty.

Being different in school can make your life hellish. It takes a lot of self-confidence to embrace who you are and define yourself on your own terms. Liz knows who she is, has no struggles with herself on a subconscious level, and is thankfully supported by her parents, who do not attempt to mold their daughter into some version of a societal stereotype. Without being the slightest bit preachy, Liz tells her story in simple, brutally candid vignettes that cover her tween and teen years. Throughout changing friendships, first crushes and school torment, Liz shares the stories of her life without being predictable or preachy, accentuated by line-based art that is deceptively simple, yet well thought-out.

Liz eventually finds her way to supportive friends, building her self-esteem by maintaining rather than compromising her identity. Tomboy is witty, funny and thought-provoking. It speaks with authenticity to any young person struggling with the challenge of not wanting to fit in the boxes into which society wants to shove us. Liz's wry humor is complemented by a skillful eye and a nuanced, non-lectury understanding that makes Tomboy a joy from start to finish.

review by
Mary Harvey

7 November 2015

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