In Liz Prince’s graphic memoir Tomboy, she recounts her experiences growing up as a girl who didn’t fit into what society expected of her, and I absolutely loved it.
Prince begins her story at age four. Even at that age, she knew she didn’t want to dress like people expected little girls should. She scorned dresses, loved Ghostbusters, played with action figures, and was never without her favorite cap and blazer. While her family is accepting of her preferences, she doesn’t make it far before the other kids at school single her out as different. In case you’ve forgotten how cruel kids can be, it’s pretty cruel. We follow Liz all the way through high school, as she tries to be friends with boys, tries to be friends with girls, and comes to terms with the idea that she doesn’t need to fit into society’s standards to be happy.
Prince tells her story with humor and honesty, and despite the fact that you can speed through it in just a few hours, her story doesn’t feel rushed or stilted. Somehow, despite the fact that Prince uses way fewer words than a prose novel, her story somehow feels longer, more intimate, and more complete than many YA books I’ve read. Readers looking for a great story or an empowering narrative will find it here. Prince’s message is important, but it doesn’t overwhelm the reader. Rather than being didactic, Tomboy critiques through expert storytelling society’s rigid definitions of gender that limit identity expression, especially for young girls.
Unlike many memoirs, Tomboy is an important book not because Prince relates some unique or astonishing experience but because her story is happening to thousands of young people every day. A truly remarkable read!