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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Reader's Diary #1734- Melanie Gillman: As the Crow Flies

Melanie Gillman's As the Crow Flies is a quietly powerful coming of age story about a 13 year old, queer, black girl, who is questioning her relationships to others and to God while on a Christian girl's wilderness retreat. She's also feeling out of place that she's the only person of colour there (or at least so she thinks at the beginning).

I say "quietly" powerful as the predominant arc is perhaps a tad predictable. If you were expecting a story about a young teenager reluctant to accept her situation come around after a combination of natural discovery, and inter and intrapersonal connections, you'd be exactly right. However, it's so much more than that and challenging in all the right ways. Gillman infuses some pretty necessary lessons about perspectives that are too often minimized if acknowledged at all. Those "casual" word choices, for example, that reinforce dominance for those already in power.

Pretty heady stuff, to be sure, and it doesn't stop there. The complexities of feminism are also explored (white feminism vs. p.o.c. feminism; acceptance of trans-gendered women), sexism in religion, colonization, and so much more. What makes it all so wonderful is that Gillman somehow makes it all seem so authentic rather than didactic. These are still kids (complete with crushes and social cliques and so on) but Gillman doesn't downplay or insult their intelligence. 13 year olds can still have some pretty profound thoughts and make some pretty astute observations.

The art, too, is incredibly well done. Coloured pencils complement the quiet, organic vibe; the panel depictions set the pace and perspective perfectly; and realistic bodies abound (I especially like the subtle way they added a few extra eyebrow hairs between camp counselor Penny's eyes).

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