The Third Person

Drawn & Quarterly. May 2022. 920p. ISBN 9781770466159. Pap. $39.95. Graphic Novels
Grove’s debut work of graphic memoir is an unflinching exploration of how our identities are formed and maintained. After a lifetime in the closet, Emma—a trans woman—visits a therapist named Toby. Emma’s only looking to get doctor approval to start hormone replacement therapy, but Toby hesitates after discovering she presents three distinct personalities: timid, bookish Emma, world-weary Ed, and an outgoing party animal called Katina. While all three express their determination to start medically transitioning, Toby suspects Emma may suffer a dissociative disorder and refuses to sign off, pending further investigation. What follows are almost 900 pages of conversation between therapist and patient, occasionally broken up by flashbacks to Emma’s traumatic upbringing or scenes depicting her daily life. Grove draws on her background in animation to render pages of conversation dynamically, switching angles to signal a change in point of view, and creating a sense of distance between her characters to convey their failure to understand one another, or else zooming in to create unexpected intimacy as they navigate Emma’s complex experience and examine her determination to live on her own terms.
VERDICT A masterfully crafted, fearlessly vulnerable memoir stressing the importance of coming to terms with trauma in order to better know oneself.
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