What To Wear? Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince
"WAHHHHH! NO, MOMMY! NOOO!"
"WHAT'S GOING ON IN HERE?"
"I'M JUST TRYING TO GET HER IN THIS DRESS!"
"C'MON! DON'T YOU WANT TO SHOW GRANDMA HOW MUCH YOU LIKE THE DRESS SHE GAVE YOU?
"NO! I DON'T LIKE ANY DRESS! I HATE THEM!"
"TELL YOUR MOM' NO MORE DRESSES,' OK?"
By the time she was three, Liz had made up her mind that she didn't like dresses. By age four she insisted on tees, sweat pants, cool sneakers, a red baseball cap, and for dress-up, a hand-me-down blazer from her friend Ben.
As Liz Prince, Tomboy, Age 31 explains,
"You see, I was born very strong-willed. And I was born a TOMBOY."
Dad's opinion is "Whatever," and Mom herself is pretty fond of her jeans, so Liz's predilection for unisex garb isn't a problem at first.
"So, on the whole my life was pretty good. I didn't even know what a tomboy was until I started school and was expected to follow the rules of gender."
But that's where the rubric hits the road. Those now-universal icons, a blobby person in a dress, or one in a unitard, begin to appear on restroom doors. Girls get pink-festooned birthday gifts with dolls inside (even if they'd rather have a Battle Beast action figure.) Girls are expected to be docile and not too athletic. Boys play baseball; girls play softball and throw funny. Bucking the trend, Liz resolutely signs up for the all-male Little League team, dreaming of being the star pitcher, only to find that she is assigned to right field every game. Strangers stop her at the restroom door. ("That's the Ladies' Room, sonny!") Waitresses naturally think she's a boy.
"And what's for the young mister?"
Liz dreads adolescence, which is implacably going to make her look like a girl, but it happens anyway. But despite her resistance to all things girly, she discovers that she has a crush--a crush--on Caleb, the heartthrob of the class!
But finding a boyfriend who doesn't mind a girlfriend who looks like one of the guys takes a lot of suffering. Middle school brings snide comments and not a little bullying, but finally Liz finds refuge in a few other determined tomboy friends, and at last finds her own milieu, the grunge/punk creative crowd, a boyfriend who digs her, and is at last at peace with her pants.
It's not quite that easy, of course.
"When you don't look or act like what everyone has been told is the norm, you get proverbially barfed on a lot."
Liz Prince's comic book version of a total tomboy is touching, hilarious, and inspiring to everyone who has had to find a way to be comfortable in his or her own pants, er, skin, and her Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir has the painfully funny appeal of Greg Kinney's Wimpy Kid series for older readers. Prince's cartoons are priceless, an all-too-true account of growing up in the era before Y2K. As insightful as it is, Prince's memoir is near to becoming a history of times past. While tutu-ed princesses still abound, girls and women arguably enjoy more freedom in choice of clothing styles, sports, and life choices now than do current males. Girls in tees and jeans are the norm now, and grunge may not even be a style anymore; it's approaching the teen uniform for both sexes. Still, girls have to fight to play on teams with boys and follow certain vocations, and we have yet to elect a woman president in the U.S.--even if she is willing to suit up and tie on a tie! Still, people are still people and come in all sorts, and humor is a wonderful way to laugh at our differences and see the person inside all of us. I'm rating this one PG-13 for language, including some F-bombs along the way.'
“Prince explores what it means to be a tomboy in a magnificently evocative graphic memoir," says Kirkus' starred review.