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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Book Review: Spinning by Tillie Walden

A graphic novel memoir is a special kind of work. Because you're not only getting the author telling you their own life story, but also drawing it, it's extra-intimate. Some things are hard to put into words, and graphic novels are perfect at those stories. Also some things are really visual, like figure skating.

Tillie Walden was a competitive figure skater as a child. She did both individual, and synchronized (group) skating. Skating is a brutal sport, mostly (in my opinion) for the hours, but on  top of it being a hard sport with sore muscles and long hours, there's the added bonus of being objectified and held to an impossible physical perfection that most other sports don't have at all. Football players who don't look like Charles Atlas aren't penalized in any way. Baseball players can be fat and ugly and that's perfectly okay if they have a good batting average.

Tillie is growing up, hitting her teens, and in something I myself remember from hitting my teens as a ballet dancer, that's when people get serious, or get out. For one thing, puberty makes physical changes to your hips and other areas, throwing off your balance, affecting your flexibility, that actually make things you used to be able to do much harder and sometimes you even have to learn them all over again. But also that's when you ought to be able to know, after roughly a decade, if this is something you want to devote your life to, and if you're any good at it, or not.

So while Tillie is going through all that, she's also figuring out some things about herself. Like about her sexuality. She comes to realize that she's a lesbian, which in an uber-feminized sport like figure skating, is more difficult to acclimate to.

Her images really convey her feelings of isolation and not fitting in, they show the beauty of skating, and the awkwardness of Tillie's feelings. This is a beautifully drawn and told memoir, by an exceptionally honest and open voice, and I hope to read more books by her in the future.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I got this book for free from my work, as it is published by First Second, a division of Macmillan.

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