Review by Lexi Cary
MariNaomi has been described as Marjane Satrapi on ecstasy. Maybe it’s because her chronicle of growing up and into herself in Marin County, CA in the eighties is done in black and white, but I think both women capture something elusive about the life of the young artist. Kiss and Tell: A Romantic Resume Ages 0-22 is a retelling of the artist’s youth bulleted by each boy (and occasional girl) who figures either prominently or passingly on her sexual resume, but delves deeper into questions of loneliness and the concerns of a young woman searching for herself in all the wrong places.
As young Mari flits from boy to boy, a process she ultimately concedes was her way of distracting herself from coming to know herself on her own terms, her artistic subconscious rears its head in dreams and a vivid acid trip. One of the most stunning set of panels details Mari, high on LSD, descending into a hole and emerging at the cloudy frontier of the Marin Headlands to gaze longingly at the Golden Gate Bridge. The solitary journey she so often seems to find in drugs and experimentation casually epitomizes the “lonely in a crowded room” feeling so many people turn to art in which to find acknowledgement for, but she happily shirks density or over-analysis through these sets of elegant panels wherein young Mari is quietly journeying, un-narrated, and the reader is filling in the words in their own mind’s eye.
This book, as soon as we have the technology, is going straight into a care package I’ll be sending back in time to my teenage self. I think, maybe simply by omission, what MariNaomi has done here is acknowledge the young person’s need to hear a litany of stories about sex and love and emotions until they can organize a scatter plot in their mind of where “normal” lies. As the reader moves on to each new boy in Mari’s tale, casual sex feels less shocking, deep and silly expressions of love more mundane, and ultimately everything feels part of a full life of honest exploration through trial and error. Mari’s great loves ultimately don’t fit right and her great wounds are minimized through hindsight, just as all of ours so often are. Because the book categorically eradicates the reader’s squeamishness, it also assures her that her own failures, embarrassments, feverish crushes and pining are all “normal.” And isn’t that what we all tried and failed to find in those pored-over Cosmo sex quizzes?
This book is a beautiful example of where the graphic art movement is heading, to subversive narratives that ponder life while breaking all the rules. Accessibility, humor, and self-deprecating wit are at the heart of these works, and MariNaomi accomplishes all those in spades, as well as doing a fabulous job of mixing in some San Francisco sex-positivity to boot. Go out and buy this for the young person in your life that’s sick of being talked down to, but be sure to throw in some earplugs for yourself. You may be hearing from their parents. And that process is what will make this chronicle forever a treasured tome of teen rebellion.
MariNaomi is the author and illustrator of the award-winning graphic memoir Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22 (Harper Perennial, 2011), the upcoming books Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories and Turning Japanese (2D Cloud), and her self-published zine, Estrus Comics (1998 to 2009). Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including I Saw You: Comics Inspired by Real Life Missed Connections, Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women, No Straight Lines, Anything That Loves, QU33R and Action Girl Comics.Her comics and essays have been featured on The Rumpus, The Weeklings, Truth-out, SFBay.CA, The Comics Journal, The Bay Citizen, XOJane and more.
MariNaomi’s artwork has been featured in such venues as the De Young Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco’s Asian American Museum and the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles. In 2011, Mari toured with the literary roadshow Sister Spit. She splits her time between San Francisco and Los Angeles.