Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Potential by Ariel Schrag

Using comic strip format, Schrag documented her experiences as she went through her high school years in Berkley, California during the mid-90s. She sold photocopies to her fellow students at the time. Her freshman (Grade 9) year is appropriately summed up with the title Awkward. Sophmore year - in which Schrag sorts out whether her sexual identity is bisexual or lesbian - is called Definition. These two are now collected into one volume, published by Simon & Schuster in 2008.

Potential covers Grade 11, Schrag's junior year. She has her first real relationship with a girl and covers all the other things going on in her teenage life: her parent's divorce, getting drunk and stoned, her desire to have sex with a boy, studying for school, and the importance of the right clothes. Passion, confusion, insecurity - Schrag lays herself bare, sometimes literally. Her autobiographical work is gutsy, fresh and funny.

In an homage to Alison Bechdel's book store scenes in Dykes to Watch Out For comics, Schrag changes the titles of the books on the shelves in her bedroom from panel to panel. Stuart Little becomes the lesbian classic Rubyfruit Jungle. The Celluloid Closet transforms into The Good Mother in the panel where Schrag's mother pops her head in the doorway. I was pleased to see one of my very favourite books on her shelves: Opal.

I look forward to the final installment of Schrag's high school chronicles, Likewise, which was published earlier this year. Schrag is currently on tour with Sister Spit; sadly for me, their only Canadian show is in Toronto.

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