FINE, A Comic About Gender
Written and illustrated by Rhea Ewing, Published by Liverright Publishing Corporation, a division of W,. W. Norton & Company, 2022
As graphic artist Rhea Ewing neared college graduation in 2012, they became consumed by a question: What is gender? This obsession sparked a quest in which they eagerly approached both friends and strangers in their quiet Midwestern town and beyond for interviews to turn into comics. A decade later, this project exploded into a sweeping portrait of the intricacies of gender expression, with 56 interviewees from all parts of the country. The people interviewed include trans, nonbinary, genderqueer, genderfluid as well as cis gender people. Ewing threads their personal journey alongside these interviews and their own coming-out story emerges as the book progresses. They grew up in rural Kentucky, grappling with their identity as a teenager, and ultimately finding themselves through art and connections made with the supportive people around them, including some of the people interviewed for this book.
Ewing asks the interviewees questions like How do you identify? What is masculinity and femininity? How do you feel about your body in relation to your gender identity? Do you feel you are able to fully express your gender the way you wish to? The answers provided to these questions (and many more like them) produce fiercely honest stories of dealing with adolescence, taking hormones, changing pronouns – and how these experiences can differ, depending on culture, race, religion, and other factors. The book reads like a LGBTQ+ graphic documentary, where Ewing has organized segments of the various interviews into topic sections including gender roles, body feelings, relationships and communities, healthcare, housing, bathroom policies, and more. Ewing catalogs that people’s thoughts on these varied topics are unique and varied, and that when you listen to a wide range of people speaking for themselves, you find that there truly are no correct answers. This book helps everyone understand the nuances of gender in today’s world and that gender is unique to each person, and that all humans are valid.
Rhea Ewing’s beautiful dedication, found at the beginning of the book reads:
“This book is dedicated to everyone who wonders if they are enough. You are enough.”
This book is a memoir, a journey, and an invitation to have heartfelt conversations. It touches on many topics including masculinity, femininity, race, culture, gender, identity, language, privilege, expression, healthcare, housing and more. It introduces the reader to a variety of diverse people and shows the complexities of gender and identity.
At the back of the book, Ewing provides added notes, further readings, and a bibliography to direct readers to more resources.
About the Author/Illustrator: Rhea Ewing (they/them) is a comic illustrator and fine artist who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BFA in drawing and printmaking. They call upon personal and political themes of queer identity, finding connections to the natural world, and building safe spaces for all people. The value of art, by their reasoning, is the ability to create connections, question assumptions, and inspire others to do the same. Ewing currently lives in California, taking artistic inspiration from the state’s diverse landscapes for their work. To learn more visit: https://rheaewing.com
This book review was submitted by Stand with Trans board member Barb Shumer, who is a retired public librarian.
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