“All things gay and beautiful were spilling into my life and changing my hair, my clothes, the books I read, and the way I worked. My excitement and inspiration diminished any fears about what I had lost in those long years of false hetero hell”Eleanor Crewes
That has to be my favorite quote from the graphic novel ‘The Times I knew I Was Gay’. It’s a memoir by Eleanor Crewes and has a very interesting back-story. It started off as a 10-page zine, with Eleanor biking across London to deliver them to comic-book shops. So what began as a small personal project is now a 300+ pages paperback journey into Crewes life and art.
The author honestly and hilariously draws out her life for us, explaining how she wasn’t even aware of her sexual orientation for most part. So we see a young woman constantly changing boyfriends, going on disappointing dates and hoping that the NEXT ONE would perhaps be ‘Mr Right’ (Or Mr Big in her case – pop culture reference to a character from the show “Sex and the City”). The ignorance, slow realization and eventual denial due to the fear of rejection is relatable and evocative. Anybody who has ever undergone any sort of identity crisis (which should most of us, gay or not) would be able to connect and empathize with the narrator’s quandaries.
I loved the fact that Eleanor has a solid clique of childhood girlfriends throughout her life who are always there for her. The tone of the book is breezy, never getting too emotional and yet it’s able to beautifully convey just how difficult “coming out” is, not just to friends and family, but to your own self. It was almost heart-breaking to read the bits where Crewes is trying to assure herself about her identity, whispering to her room “I am gay”, as if seeking acceptance from the walls she grew up surrounded by.
The artwork is adorable; it’s simple and doodle-like, giving the story a raw fun touch. The story/art is not boxed into regular comic style panels and is spread out like a children’s illustrated book, but it works in favor of the memoir. I feel like every 16-year-old should read this book, so that some of them would possibly not waste an extra six years trying to figure out their identity (Eleanor was 21 when she finally accepted she was a lesbian and started seeing other women).
“The Times I Knew I Was Gay” may be Eleanor Crewes’ coming-out-story, but its theme of finding yourself is universal. It’s the perfect gift for any teen trying to navigate into adulthood in the brutal era of social media, cyber-bullying and online dating. Wrap yourself in a comforter, grab a cup of your favorite beverage and start reading.
My list of authors I would like to hug is slowly growing. It’s a 5/5 from me.
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Listen to Episode 15 to discover some great graphic novels.