Friday, October 9, 2020

Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame by Erin Williams


Reviewed by Kristin

Commute is an uncomfortable book. Erin Williams lays herself open and raw as she viscerally recounts her experiences of being a woman. Williams seems very self-aware as she looks at how women are perceived, and how they perceive themselves. Issues of love, hate, misogyny, power inequality, abuse, and empowerment—they are all inside this volume.

Williams tells her story in pictures and text, a graphic novel thick with emotion. She begins with waking up, walking the dog, waiting for the train. As she goes through her day, she includes reflections from her life thus far. She doesn’t sugarcoat her experiences, nor do they feel like any kind of an exaggeration.

So much of the writing centers around how men look at women, how women feel objectified, and how women shape themselves as a result. Every minute of a woman’s waking life is filled with decisions on how to act, how to speak, how to be. Williams describes this—in words and pictures—with painful clarity.

She owns her experiences and actions; many center around sex and alcohol, then turn to motherhood and positive female support relationships. This is not a litany of male bashing, but simply a brutally honest expression of what Williams herself has lived.

Commute is not my usual reading material, either in subject or in its graphic format. It’s taken me a couple of months of thinking about it to be able to write a review. But I appreciate that the author dared to express herself, and I’m glad that I read it and recognize where our experiences intersect. I’m glad that Williams found her voice, made herself visible, and recounted her story in such a brave work.

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