I have just recently read “Dumplin’” by Julie Murphy, a cute teenage novel about an overweight girl who not only falls in love with a boy but whose feelings are requited. The way the narrator displayed the sensation of being touched on her body, a body that does not correspond to the mainstream understanding of what is sexy, was fascinating for me because that was a voice I have not heard before. I could so relate to this girl.
Having said that I can totally understand anyone who wants to feel represented in literature or art, not only your feelings and experiences, but also some major characteristics of you and the problems they might create. Let me introduce “Bingo Love” here, a black, queer comic with inclusive elements.
1963, New Jersey: Meet Hazel Johnson, a black teenage girl with glasses (and yes, a little overweight too). It is love at first sight, when she gets to know her new classmate Mari McCray (another black young aldy). You can imagine that in 1963 parents’ reactions to their daughters’ affection to a girl are not very positive and so both are forced to forget about each other. But they don’t! The reader watches Hazel grow older and make decisions she will not necessarily regret but which will make her personal development more difficult later in life. In 2015, Hazel goes to her annual Bingo event on Mother’s Day and is not prepared for what awaits her there: a reunion with her first love Mari. Although being in their mid sixties now they feel like teenagers again. Find out what they make of that!
This comic is a lovely idea and shows in a heart-warming way that love does not know colour, gender or age. The artwork is beautiful and only very rarely a little kitschy (but oh, I do love those little unicorns and doves that jump for joy when the ladies are kissing). The final product is not perfect though. Sometimes the dialogues were a bit (too) straight to the point. No wonder: it is hard setting the scene when you only have a few pages, but when you follow a character through decades it is difficult to create an atmosphere for this point in their lifetime and likewise drop expository information on them. I would have loved the story to be longer.
By the way, this graphic novel has a fabulous biography, as Tee Franklin, herself a “queer, disabled, black woman comic writer” (as she says on her website) was sure she would not be able to publish a story that was so far away from mainstream expectations. A kickstarter campaign opened doors (Find out more in this compelling interview which also includes a peek onto some of the artwork in the comic) and gave her the opportunity to publish this book and have her personal coming out. This story just shows that it is hard to leave yourself out of your own writing – and that it is this personal touch that stories often need.
Enjoy! Check out the Bingo Love website and buy the book in your local LGBTI bookstore.