Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame

ComicArts: Abrams. Oct. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9781419736742. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683355625. Rated: Mature. MEMOIR
The subtitle of this graphic—literally and figuratively—memoir by writer/illustrator Williams (coauthor, The Big Fat Activity Book for Pregnant People) promises an exploration of female shame. Williams certainly delivers that, as she documents a wide variety of her relationships and interactions with men—positive and negative, intimate and banal alike—and determining that our patriarchal society poisons all of them. Williams organizes her remembrances by themes and fragile connections rather than chronology, and her rudimentary drawings, which resemble hand-drawn clip art, are colored selectively and idiosyncratically, and feature the occasional photo. This homely mix more or less succeeds in conveying the emotional honesty Williams is after, but she sabotages the work as a whole with its final movement, a series of shrill, debatable proclamations about the degree to which culture renders women powerless [advance uncorrected proof used for review].
VERDICT By turns harrowing, sad, revealing, and infuriating, this isn't for all readers of graphic novels or memoirs, but those who brave it are in for a challenging, confrontational experience. Optional; frequent profanity, nudity and frank discussions of sex and sexual assault. [Previewed in Ingrid Bohnenkamp's Graphic Novels Spotlight, "Mass Appeal," LJ 6/19.]
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