Flocks

L. Nichols. Secret Acres, $21.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-9991935-2-5
This moving, skillfully wrought coming-of-age graphic memoir shares Nichols’s struggle to integrate his queer identity with a devout Southern Baptist upbringing: “No matter how hard I tried, I never heard ‘me’ when they said ‘we.’ ” Nichols, who is targeted as a lesbian while growing up (“I heard she’s a dyke”) and now identifies as a transgender man, first presented these stories in a series of pamphlet comics. Throughout the narrative, Nichols depicts himself as a button-eyed rag doll, perpetually set apart from “normal” family and peers, developing same-sex crushes while still attempting to reconcile his religious faith with the virulently anti-LGBTQ messages baked into the culture: “Instead of questioning the church’s teachings, I threw myself even further in.” Nichols is a talented artist, often utilizing symbology (such as the arrows that point at him whenever he feels his secrets have been exposed) in almost incantatory fashion. Over time, Nichols establishes his own flock of family and community as a fully integrated person. Written and drawn with equal parts raw honesty and a wide-open heart, this lovely full-color book should have crossover appeal for younger readers, middle school and up, opening up the experience of any reader challenged by their gender identity, sexuality, and/or conflicting religious beliefs. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/04/2018
Release date: 09/01/2018
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