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Commute

By: Erin Williams.
ISBN: 9781419736742.
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Non-Fiction Davis (Central) Library
Non-Fiction
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

An intimate, clever, and ultimately gut-wrenching graphic memoir about the daily decision women must make between being sexualized or being invisible 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.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Publishers Weekly Review

Williams (The Big Fat Activity Book for Pregnant People) chronicles the everyday humiliation she feels as a female in this frankly illustrated war cry. The events she recounts are simple: Williams wakes, dresses, takes the train, works, comes home, and cares for her infant daughter. Throughout, she delves into flashbacks of trauma, frustrated fury, experiences with substance abuse and sobriety, self-criticism, and, ultimately, triumphant discovery through friendship and the love of other women and their creativity. In loose-but-evocative, spare lines, often depicting only the barest contours of the body, Williams identifies the persistent harm done to women, through everything from ogling to rape, how that harm is internalized, and how women cope. There is blackout alcoholism for "oblivion junkies," men to lose one's self in, and the renewal of self that motherhood can bring. Williams does not shy away from her shame. She is also angry, and she knows she is not alone, and that brilliant anger is where the book becomes truly great. Her confidence--and literal straight gaze at the reader, full of vulnerability and challenge--makes this volume a critique, a lament, and a sigh. As Williams elegantly argues, many women need all three. This sharp and splendidly drawn memoir will strike a strong chord in the current moment. (Oct.)

Booklist Review

On one level of Williams' memoir, she wakes up, takes the train into Manhattan, goes to work, and heads home again. Over the course of this day, however, that scope expands: spurred by a man's unwelcome stare or a tiresome conversation, she brings readers to several memory-planes, revisiting ex-boyfriends, past sexual trauma and shame, her alcoholism, and how these things all combined for her. Her digitally drawn grayscale illustrations are powerful in their minimalism and sometimes funny, with high contrast and occasional bursts of bright color adding to what's already a very alert reading experience. All-caps text is light on the page, except for when it's the spine-tingling focus. In white text on an all-black page: ""Show me a narrator less reliable than one who seeks to maintain his own power and control."" Williams recalls finding sobriety and fulfilling work and becoming a mother. Ultimately, she finds the message and the means for this book through conversations with other women who encouraged her to craft her story and craft she did. This is welcoming, soul-baring, stunningly interconnected, and very discussable.--Annie Bostrom Copyright 2019 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

One day's commute offers time for the author to reflect on sexual predators, alcoholism, and the experiences she understands better now than she did at the time.New York City-based writer and illustrator Williams (co-author: The Big Activity Book for Anxious People, 2019, etc.) presents a graphic memoir that female readers will find galvanizing and male readers should find illuminating. She explains early on that her reading on the commuter train is restricted to female authors: "I don't read books by men because I feel sufficiently well-versed in the human male experience from my education." The lessons were hard earned, and some were slowly learned, since the author's perspective as a sober mother in recovery is very different than it was when she was experiencing sexual encounters as a blackout alcoholic. "Blackouts," she writes, "are euphoric, quiet, twilight birth....It's absolute, perfect freedom. So bring strangers home, because in this sacred darkness, intimacy is not a threat, it's a compulsion. The dark has you covered." Williams long felt some shame of complicity in what she now recognizes as outright rape, and she sees clarity in even murkier situations: "The yes or no of consent is not what separates mutual desire from predation," she writes. "The game is rigged; all the power is concentrated on the other side. We are groomed for compliance." Most pages are a single panel and self-contained, a series of reflections and impressions intercut with memories, as the woman on the page feels outnumbered by the men who sit too close to her, stare at her, or intrude upon her. Within her caricatures, she wonders which might be rapists and which might be rescuers. Over the course of the day, she reflects on her recovery, how the strong support of other women helped awaken her to a new life, and how their encouragement spawned this graphic, candid, courageous memoir.A catharsis for the author that fits perfectly within a pivotal period for society and culture at large. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.