Queer as All Get Out | Review
Queer as All Get Out: 10 People Who’ve Inspired Me
by Shelby Criswell
Street Noise Books, $18.99
Ages 16 and up
Queer as All Get Out combines two popular comic genres — graphic memoir and non-fiction biography — in outstanding fashion.
Shelby Criswell lives in Texas. They cope with “unwanted attention for being visibly queer” by reflecting on the lives of ten people whose stories reveal different aspects of queer experience.
I could identify with their mixed feelings about liking where they live but being discouraged by Southern intolerance. Their story, and this graphic novel, is a welcome reminder that not every queer person lives in New York City or San Francisco. Their experience is nuanced, and they well express their conflicting emotions.
Criswell begins with their story of self-acceptance before leading into the capsule biographies. Because these stories all feature people of color, most will be unknown to many readers. The figures — Mary Jones, We’wha, Magnus Hirschfeld, Pauli Murray, Wilmer “Little Ax” Broadnax, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Carlett Brown, Nancy Cárdenas, Ifti Nasim, and Simon Nkoli — include activists, artists and creators, entertainers, educators, and scientists.
One came out late in life, another had to overcome family pressure to find their own community, one struggled to express identity in the face of a society that termed them criminal for existing, and several struggled to live as the gender they identified with. Some disappear from history before we see the end of their story. Many dealt with bigotry. Some faced immense pressures, and some remind us that our society is still not as enlightened as we might hope. Yet these stories are inspiring in showing how determined these people were to be themselves.
Criswell’s thoughts and lessons are clearly and plainly stated, and the art similarly is straightforward, showing people, settings, and emotions in easy-to-understand fashion. Their struggles, including with finding some kinds of support from religion while being ostracized in other ways, are relatable, and they do an excellent job explaining their experiences and views.
The book concludes with a glossary and information on sources and additional reading. Criswell has illustrated this sometimes dry information as if artifacts from the lives portrayed, a beautiful touch. There are also references for organizations and reference centers for readers to learn more.
Queer as All Get Out is an essential read. It explores and explains queer self-acceptance with a smartly curated set of inspiring stories.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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