Long gone are the days of trying to prove the legitimacy of the graphic memoir. In the spirit of Fun Home, Alison Bechdel’s landmark book of growing up queer in rural Pennsylvania, comes Shira Spector’s singular Red Rock Baby Candy.
Spector’s intensely personal storytelling is at once whimsical and profound. And nothing is off-limits or glossed over. In fact, Spector rushes toward difficult topics head-on, taking on virginity, infertility, illness and sexuality in all its forms.
If the age-old advice is to write about what you know, Spector has a warehouse of material. Though her experiences as a queer woman, mother, daughter, and partner alone would be enough of a reserve to draw on, she also grapples with the trauma of a complicated pregnancy and a terminally ill father. Spector really shines when she turns the light on her own psyche; the “warts and all” approach works perfectly in the hands of such a talented artist.
Unlike Alison Bechdel or Mira Jacob in her award-winning book Good Talk, Spector shuns the traditional comic-panel approach to graphic storytelling. Each page is a visual and spiritual journey unto itself. The drawings and language are raw, sensual, and fantastical — a blend of swirling lines, colors, and floating handwritten text. The reader is immediately absorbed into Spector’s world, and it is impossible to ignore the weight and extent of her emotions. The reader will feel intimately connected to the material and to the author herself.
A self-described “dyke drama queen,” Spector shows a limitless ability to reflect the inner workings of her vibrant brain. Red Rock Baby Candy feels fresh and new. But don’t expect to quickly breeze through.
Amy Oringel is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, BusinessWeek, and The Forward.