On Loving Women by Diane Obomsawin is a graphic novel recently put out by Drawn & Quarterly. It simply yet beautifully portrays the coming out stories of nine women, all friends or ex-lovers of the author.
When I first heard about this graphic novel, I was excited because it’s pretty rare to find a quality book about the lesbian experience by a lesbian. Sure there are a ton of theory books, or erotic books of pretty dismal quality that are probably meant for straight women and men – but to find a book that honestly talks about the lives of gay women without making it into a tragedy or an epic drama is rare.
Each woman’s story is told from her own point of view and begins usually at the start of her coming out process. The dialog and narration is minimal, which matches Obomsawin’s drawing style very well. What I liked most about these stories was how universal they all were, even though they are all about gay women. Everyone goes through different stages of “finding themselves” and I think Obomsawin portrays this aspect of each story very well.
Obomsawin chose to depict each character in the book with an animal head rather than a human head, much like Art Spiegelman did in MAUS. I think this is a wise choice because when writing a story about the struggles of a minority, you run the risk of alienating a large portion of your readers who aren’t in that minority. Everyone wants to relate to the characters in the books they read, and I believe Obomsawin succeeds in making these love stories universal through the way in which she draws her characters.
Even though this graphic novel is a quick read, the stories stay with you because you feel like you were all of the women in this book. After reading On Loving Women I was left feeling nostalgic and wistful. It brought me back to the days when you finally start to fall into your real skin – and how that can be simultaneously painful and wonderful.