If you are excited at the thought of peeking into a stranger’s private diary, then Vanessa Davis’ collection of comics and drawings from 2004 – 2010 will be right up your alley. In a humorous and unflinching style, Davis regales readers with stories of growing up Jewish in south Florida. She is fearless in describing typical teenage rites of passage, such as preparing for her own bat mitzvah and the unexpected joys of “fat camp.” Using bright watercolors, Davis illustrates stories about college, dating, sex, coming to terms with her Jewish identity as an adult, and life as an artist in New York City and California. Interspersed with these vignettes are short pencil-sketched diary entries, which satisfy a voyeuristic craving as they introduce friends, storylines, ideas, and memories. Davis’ artistic style and self-deprecatingly honest voice is reminiscent of Lynda Barry’s autobiographical works. But her stand-out pieces on spending Mother’s Day with her mother and sister in Florida, celebrating the High Holy Days, and critiquing R. Crumb’s take on Genesis are heartwarmingly charming, funny, and in a class by themselves. Warning: this book does contain nudity.
Wendy Wasman is the librarian & archivist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Cleveland, Ohio.