A deeply personal, artistic self-portrait of being transgender and becoming whole.

Writer and animator Grove’s debut graphic memoir portrays her youth coming to terms with her sexuality and gender dysphoria.

Closeted at 13, the author struggled with her gender identity; years later, she encountered several social and psychological roadblocks early on in her transition. She attempted to remedy them with Toby, a gender therapist who could approve her for hormonal treatments, but the road was arduous and studded with hazards. The author and illustrator chronicles her personal story via flashbacks, detailing schoolyard bullying and physical abuse at the hands of her grandfather, extreme trauma that manifested in dissociative identity disorder. In an effort to cope with the psychological pain of her past, Grove embodied several “alter” identities that were stronger and more resilient. Two examples were Ed, a male-identifying persona, and Katina, a sunny, uninhibited “party girl.” Katina was the opposite of timid Emma and emerged as the more dominant personality during sessions with the shortsighted Toby, who harshly considered Katina as the “third person in the room who isn’t here.” The majority of the narrative takes place in Grove’s sessions with Toby, who condescendingly questioned the authenticity of her ordeal, her transgender identity, and her separate personalities. Worse, he weaponized her past traumas against her. As the author continued to work to achieve clarity, a new, empathetic therapist ushered her forward. Readers will be engrossed by this candid tale of intimate transition, bravery, and a fierce determination to confront demons in order to embrace the true self. Creatively conceived, Grove’s use of cartoons to tell her story is a clever choice. At nearly 900 pages, the book is a surprisingly brisk reading experience rendered effectively through the minimalist illustrations and powerful dialogue exchanges. Grove’s artistry also embellishes the journey with palpable character movement and facial expressions and mood representation. While untangling the complexities and often sobering dynamics of vulnerability and identity, Grove’s impressive comic journal illuminates, inspires, and educates.

A deeply personal, artistic self-portrait of being transgender and becoming whole.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-77046-615-9

Page Count: 920

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022


An accessible, informative journey through complex issues during turbulent times.

Immersion journalism in the form of a graphic narrative following a Syrian family on their immigration to America.

Originally published as a 22-part series in the New York Times that garnered a Pulitzer for editorial cartooning, the story of the Aldabaan family—first in exile in Jordan and then in New Haven, Connecticut—holds together well as a full-length book. Halpern and Sloan, who spent more than three years with the Aldabaans, movingly explore the family’s significant obstacles, paying special attention to teenage son Naji, whose desire for the ideal of the American dream was the strongest. While not minimizing the harshness of the repression that led them to journey to the U.S.—or the challenges they encountered after they arrived—the focus on the day-by-day adjustment of a typical teenager makes the narrative refreshingly tangible and free of political polemic. Still, the family arrived at New York’s JFK airport during extraordinarily political times: Nov. 8, 2016, the day that Donald Trump was elected. The plan had been for the entire extended family to move, but some had traveled while others awaited approval, a process that was hampered by Trump’s travel ban. The Aldabaans encountered the daunting odds that many immigrants face: find shelter and employment, become self-sustaining quickly, learn English, and adjust to a new culture and climate (Naji learned to shovel snow, which he had never seen). They also received anonymous death threats, and Naji wanted to buy a gun for protection. He asked himself, “Was this the great future you were talking about back in Jordan?” Yet with the assistance of selfless volunteers and a community of fellow immigrants, the Aldabaans persevered. The epilogue provides explanatory context and where-are-they-now accounts, and Sloan’s streamlined, uncluttered illustrations nicely complement the text, consistently emphasizing the humanity of each person.

An accessible, informative journey through complex issues during turbulent times.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-30559-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020


An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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