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Commute by Erin Williams – Graphic Novel Review

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

This memoir of ‘female shame’ really tore in to my heart with its intimate authenticity. Erin Williams’ story does not bow down to normal conventions of removing banality and hiding the grittier aspects of life. This story is raw with honesty and flays your heart open like a fresh wound ready to take a repeated pounding. Maybe it was just me. Maybe it was the simplistic artistic style that did not aspire to perfection but rather existed as a visual representation of Williams’ message of shining a light on all of the things we try to hide. This story is not an easy read but that makes it all the more worthy of your time.

Blurb:

In Commute, we follow author and illustrator Erin Williams on her daily commute to and from work, punctuated by recollections of sexual encounters as well as memories of her battle with alcoholism, addiction, and recovery.

As she moves through the world navigating banal, familiar, and sometimes uncomfortable interactions with the familiar-faced strangers she sees daily, Williams weaves together a riveting collection of flashbacks. Her recollections highlight the indefinable moments when lines are crossed and a woman must ask herself if the only way to avoid being objectified is to simply cease to draw any attention to her physical being.

She delves into the gray space that lives between consent and assault and tenderly explores the complexity of the shame, guilt, vulnerability, and responsibility attached to both.

Pros:

  • Commute was an incredibly authentic story that lent weight and respect to the gritty and honest themes that were present (and darker in nature than I had anticipated). The impact of sexual abuse, addiction and the constant fight for recovery was evident throughout this book. It was real, scathingly honest and painted a picture that was hard to look away from.
  • I loved the banal elements in this book. At first I thought they were making an irreverent commentary on the unimportance of everything else in her life. Rather, the story highlighted the small, inconsequential events that we take for granted everyday. It lent a positive light on to the small victories that we almost forget about winning.
  • The message of being a sexual object or being invisible was one I hadn’t considered before but started to notice everywhere once I knew what to look for. It’s mind bogglingly simple as an idea and yet so complex and intricate in real life.

Cons:

  • I mean this with all due respect considering the content matter of this book, but it seemed to lacked a consideration for the similar circumstances many men face in their lifetime. They are not exempt from painful experiences of sexual abuse, addiction and recovery. I can see why they would have been painted as the ‘bad guys’ in this novel. I even agree with majority of the stereotypes placed on them as a whole. What I would have liked to have seen however, was some indication of the fact that women are not the only ones who struggle with these issues.
  • The onus of blame in regards to addiction was a tough one to swallow in this story. There never seems to be a ‘right answer’ or one direct person to blame. You can’t even blame the addict. I loved and yet disliked that this story did not have a clear or simple ending.

//have you read this book? what were your thoughts on it? //

Jen

8 thoughts on “Commute by Erin Williams – Graphic Novel Review

  1. I feel like I would relate to this one in a way when it comes to being a sexual object. When I would travel to and from college on public transportation I would get cat called and even called harsh names if I ignored them. I do agree that it is important to talk about how the same things can happen to men too. Its a topic that is rarely discussed but needs to be!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ohhhh this looks really really good . I definitely want to check it out. this is definitely something I think we can all relate to unfortunately and it seems like it’s never ending. great review 🙂

    Like

  3. Wow, awesome review, Jen. This one sounds like a pretty intense/heavy read! You make a very interesting point regarding the same issues that men face and I absolutely agree that it’s something that should also be talked about more. It receives much less attention than it should, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you agree! I can understand her hatred of men (mostly) but I felt like there was a glaring absence of consideration for their struggles as well. Here’s to hoping more books come out on this topic, especially focusing on men’s issues in these areas 🙂 Jen

      Like

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