I'm still making my way through the mammoth stack of Short Run books I bought earlier this month. It's not a chore at all — I love reading minicomics — but it's rare when a book stands up and demands my attention.
One of the attention-grabbiest comics in this year's Short Run haul for me is Liz Prince's memoir Tomboy. This is a memoir about Prince's lifelong struggle with gender conformity, focusing mainly on her school years.
"I DON'T LIKE ANY DRESS," Prince yells as a toddler in the beginning of Tomboy. "I HATE THEM!" Those who believe that gender is a hard and fast rule would do well to read about Prince's instinctual revulsion against any item of clothing that could be considered girly. This is not a choice; it's how she was born.
And Tomboy isn't all about clothes. It's about how Prince learned to accept herself, and how she was not always accepted by her peers. Prince is a charming and accessible narrator, and her art is clean and accessible — kind of a perfect cross between John Porcellino and Julia Wertz.
As Prince ages over the course of the book, her challenges become more and more complex. The gender norms of high school begin to crush her spirit. She doubts her own resolve. But Prince's understanding of herself also deepens, and that understanding gives her the strength to be true to her own calling.
Tomboy is funny and sweet and deeply reflective. It's the kind of book that will sing directly into someone's ear. It will inspire a shock of recognition in some tomboys, and it will help more than a few readers come to the realization that not everyone feels comfortable dressing like a generic gendered figure sign on a bathroom door. It's such a personal document that everyone has something to learn from it.