On Loving Women by Diane Obomsawin
An utterly charming and whimsical look at the coming out stories of the author / artist and her friends.
It’s hard to describe just how much I loved this gorgeous book by French Canadian animator Diane Obomsawin. The drawings may be simple black and white, yet they are extremely expressive, with each of the characters drawn as an animal head on a human body. I don’t know why the artist chose to do it this way, but it works, as we focus more on the coming out stories and anecdotes than on what the people within look like. And despite the ‘cartoon’ nature of the book, there’s nothing child-like about the images of women exploring their sexuality amid the sex, drugs and alcohol that often accompanies adolescence and early adulthood.
There are ten stories in total, each with the simple title – “Mathilde’s story”, “Sasha’s story”, “Catherine’s story” and so on. And that’s exactly what they are – simple stories that are more the reminiscingsof women as they share those moments in their lives when they came to understand their sexuality. The anecdotes are the stories of Obomsawin and her friends, aged from eleven to their twenties, some in cities, some in towns, some in catholic schools, some in college; these stories are snapshots of the experiences of women who love women.
Most don’t follow a traditional narrative structure – there’s not much conflict or rising drama, no dramatic climaxes or resolutions… it feels like you’ve sat down in a café with a new friend as they share their wistful, funny, sexy, embarrassing and heartbreaking experiences of the first time they fell in love, had sex with a woman (or two), worried about being ‘found out’, crushed on teachers or high school friends or stole their brother’s girlfriend.
Primarily, this is a beautiful book that seeks to explore self discovery, the difficulties of coming out, and the joy of loving and being loved. And it does so – with a rawness and honesty that left me wanting more.