Book review: Tomboy, by Liz Prince

Prince TomboyPrince, Liz. Tomboy. Zest Books, 2014. $15.99. 256p. PB. 978-1-936976-55-3.

This memoir in graphic novel format begins with four-year-old Liz refusing to wear a dress. For a while she hopes to turn into a boy, but when the family moves, Liz meets other tomboys and feels like she fits in. Then puberty arrives with the 6th grade sex ed movie. “It was seeming less and less likely that I would become a boy, but I’d never considered that I was becoming a woman.” Liz discovers she is attracted to boys and learns most of them expect girls to be girly. Both her friendships and romantic relationships are fraught with humor and drama.

Eventually as a teen, Liz realizes, “I subscribed to the idea that there was only one form of femininity and that it was inferior to being a man.” Instead of buying into society’s expectations, Liz comes to accept herself and surround herself with people who accept her on her own terms.

While Liz identifies as straight and female, her particular gender identity demands a boy-like expression. Anything at all girly, even to the tiny flower in the center of a bra offends her sense of self. That makes this book a powerful, if often funny, examination of the variability of identity within a gender. Liz shows how much gender expression matters by the amount of harassment and bullying she endures to be authentic.

Carolyn Caywood, retired from Virginia Beach Public Library

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