Non­fic­tion

Red Rock Baby Candy

  • Review
By – June 2, 2021

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.

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