Girlish innocence and disarming candor mark a graphic memoir that often reads like an illustrated diary.
Whether she’s writing about threesomes, foursomes or the possibility of moresomes, the San Francisco–based cartoonist MariNaomi exudes a sweetness undefiled by experience. She begins before her birth, with the courtship of her father, an Army officer teaching English in Japan, and his teenage pupil, nine years younger. The author dedicates the book to her parents, “who I pray will still speak to me after they read [it],” and then proceeds to detail her encounters, year-by-year, with a variety of boys and an occasional girl. She begins with a chapter titled “The most beautiful penis I’ve ever seen,” describing her sexual awakening in an episode that others might consider pedophilia. The story introduces the image of the butterfly, through which stages of development the book progresses. The vast majority of her encounters take no more than one page, six panels at most, making the longer episodes seem all the more ambitious and creatively audacious. One of them recounts her loss of virginity at age 14 (“Even though it got better, I was glad when it was over”), and another vividly describes her maiden voyage on LSD. As she matures, MariNaomi often presents herself as clueless about what she was doing, why and with whom, whether she was the seducer or the one being seduced. She seemed to fall into sex with boys who left her shortly after, and/or with whom she had nothing in common, and/or who were originally more attracted to one of her girlfriends. Eventually, she began to find some of her girlfriends more attractive than the boys with whom she continued to involve herself.Though there are some dark interludes—her most serious boyfriend ends up in prison; she learns of the death of another years after their troubled relationship—this is ultimately a celebration of a young girl’s life, from larva to wings.