“Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir” by Liz Prince— Refuting the Boundaries of Gender


Prince, Liz. “Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir”, Zest Books , 2014.

Refuting the Boundaries of Gender

Amos Lassen

 As she was growing up, Liz Prince wasn’t a girly girl; she did not do what other girls did but then she was not one of the guys either which she learned when her Little League baseball coach exiled her to the outfield instead of letting her take the pitcher’s mound. Liz was somewhat in the middle and here is her story of the journey she took and the struggle she had to find the place where she belonged. She shares this with us in her graphic novel that has gender boundaries as the theme of the book. What makes this interesting is that while the book is about refusing gender boundaries, it is also about embracing gender stereotypes. Author Prince also shows us that one can be just as much of a girl in jeans and a T-shirt as in a pink tutu. The memoir is presented in anecdotes and we follow the author from early childhood into adulthood as she explores her ever-evolving struggles and wishes about what it means to “be a girl.”

Prince perceived being girly by refuting it and then discovering through the punk community that one’s identity is whatever each person makes of it, regardless of your gender. Did you ever stop to think about who defines us and what we are? Certainly we would prefer being defined by the complete person but there are those whose insides and outsides just do not match.

Prince writes from the heart and shares her feelings of not being able to discover who she was. She hated dresses from the early age of 2 just as she hated the color pink, parties and dolls. She loved playing catch with the boys and adolescence was a real struggle for her. As a youngster, she did not know she was different until she went to school and learn that she was expected to follow what were known as the rules of gender.

This is an important book and valuable on many different levels. Prince looks at bullying, the fact that there are those youths that are not fully understood, and finally at self-love and self-acceptance. While this is quite an intense book, there is also humor here. What makes it different is the fact that it is a graphic memoir and the illustrations are great and give us a different approach that we have had in the past. The black and white drawings are perfect and they emphasize that this is no fairy tale.

Then we share the balance between courage and vulnerability that is so obvious here. This is Liz Price’s autobiography and it is humorous and sensitive especially since it makes us think while serving as something on a primer on gender. We get quite a look at the painful consequences of finding, expressing and establishing individuality. Prince always stood strong and never gave in.

Leave a Reply