By Paige Allen
June is Pride Month, often a particularly festive time of the year when queer people of color examine the current state of the media and find themselves, once again, lacking in representation.
For now, if you’re looking to celebrate your queerness, your black/brownness, and all the various intersections of your identity in comic books, here are a few more examples.
The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, by E.K. Weaver
“In the span of a single day, Amal calls off his arranged marriage, comes out to his conservative parents, promptly gets disowned, goes on a bender… and wakes up the next morning to find TJ, a lanky, dreadlocked vagrant, frying eggs and singing Paul Simon in his kitchen.
TJ claims that the two have made a drunken pact to drive all the way from Berkeley to Providence. As it happens, Amal promised his sister he’d be there for her graduation from Brown University. And TJ, well… TJ has his own reasons.
The agreement is simple: Amal does the driving; TJ pays the way – but a 3500-mile journey leaves plenty of time for things to get complicated.”
Why You Should Read It:
Full disclosure: I’ve followed this series since it was a webcomic conceived several years ago by Weaver, and it was my very first choice for this list for primarily nostalgic reasons. Still, I can acknowledge that upon initial review of this comic, there may be some stereotypes that will give a potential reader pause – the Indian character dealing with an arranged marriage, the immigrant family being conservative and homophobic, the white guy with the locs… I totally get it.
However, like Steve Orlando and Virgil, I found Weaver’s portrayal of these stereotypical tropes to be well-researched, respectful and ultimately subverted in ways that were justifiable and refreshingly human. TJ and Amal shines in its beautifully realized main characters and the slow and careful development of their relationship, which as the central focus in this otherwise mundane road trip story. It keeps the reader interested with lots of awkwardness, surprising similarities, and quirky personalities.
An emotional connection with these characters is particularly found in the realistic way that Weaver deals with queerness. Rather than give readers a bland and uniformed presentation of TJ and Amal’s sexualities, the story acknowledges that the main characters relate to their identities differently based on their unique racial, economic, and familial backgrounds. The narrative succeeds in showing these nuanced realities and how they influence their lives and communal interactions. Along with these subtle life lessons, stunning background details enrich an ultimately sweet love story.
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, by Nagata Kabi
“My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is an honest and heartfelt look at one young woman’s exploration of her sexuality, mental well-being, and growing up in our modern age. Told using expressive artwork that invokes both laughter and tears, this moving and highly entertaining single-volume depicts not only the artist’s burgeoning sexuality, but many other personal aspects of her life that will resonate with readers.”
Why You Should Read It:
Hot off the press is the recently released English translation of Nagata’s smash hit autobiographical manga. It’s simultaneously a tough and amazing read, by virtue of its raw and relatable depiction of Nagata’s struggles with depression and fears about adult life. Because readers can relate so closely with many aspects of her situation, they will be quickly sucked into her world and brought onto an emotional rollercoaster where they wallow in her sorrows, sympathize with her anxieties and cheer with her eventual successes.
This is an ongoing series, and unfortunately only the first few chapters have been translated into English. Nevertheless, the comic works as its own standalone and its open ending is very appropriate for the uncomfortable ambiguities that Nagata deals with in her everyday life. The artwork is expressive and energetically drawn, even if it doesn’t stray much from typical manga art if you’re familiar with that style. In reading about this author’s queer experiences, you truly won’t feel alone in your own – and that’s the most valuable and heartwarming thing about sharing stories like these.