The Austin Chronicle

Diane Obomsawin’s 'On Loving Women'

By Sarah Marloff, April 23, 2014, 6:30pm, Under the Covers

Love. It’s something all people have in common.

Who can’t relate to the bittersweet, naïve crushes, and lusts, of youth? In her new graphic novel from Canada's Drawn & Quarterly, Diane Obomsawin’s simplistic stories do nothing if not highlight love’s universality.

On Loving Women is a collection of women’s coming out stories. But while Obomsawin’s book is simple – no story spans more than a handful of black and white cartoony pages – it is not without feeling. Whimsical, sad, and painful – in the same way that looking back at old photographs from middle school can be painful – the vignettes remind us of the awkward and cringe-worthy “I’ve been there” years.

Like the writing itself, the illustrations are a bit rudimentary, but their rawness adds depth to the storylines. On Loving Women’s characters are not depicted as humans. Instead they are outlines of humanoid horses, bunnies, mice, and other animal life. The pictures evoke a kind of sweetness while also erasing age, race, and gender presentation from the women. Without imposed descriptors, the characters become both accessible and relatable.

And yet, this is not a collection of innocent love stories. On Loving Women keeps the graphic in graphic novel. Obomsawin’s characters get naked and they do not shy away from sex scenes. A refreshing change since, more often than not, lesbian sex is either dismissed or eroticized. Within these pages it’s real, with that same awkward, naïve sheen of everyone’s first time.

Yes, there are some weaker stories that would fall if left to stand-alone. And throughout the tales, time moves quickly and sometimes illogically. But as a whole, the book reads smoothly, endearing the reader to each of the interchangeable characters.

Though the comic was written from the perspective of an older generation (there are references to queer political movements of the seventies), its simplicity keeps it up-to-date. Almost any woman-loving queer of any age can certainly relate to the tales told within the covers. In fact, coming out, the first kiss, and having the right sex for the first time has never felt so awesomely universal.

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