The Third Person

Emma Grove. Drawn & Quarterly, $39.95 (888p) ISBN 978-1-77046-615-9

Grove’s debut memoir, a breezy affair even at close to 900 pages, dives into tangled questions of identity with clear-eyed, clean-lined assurance. Emma, a trans woman, visits a therapist to get approval to begin physically transitioning after a lifetime in the closet. During therapy, however, she presents as three different people—shy bookworm and writer Emma; outgoing, aggressive party girl Katina; and exhausted workaholic Ed—with shifting outfits and wigs for each persona. The therapist, Toby, isn’t sure if Emma has dissociative disorder, a very rare condition he’s never encountered in practice, or if she’s putting him on. Emma’s personalities, meanwhile, seem unaware that there’s anything unusual about their situation and remain focused on qualifying for hormones. “I do have separate parts of myself,” Emma rationalizes, “but doesn’t everybody?” As therapist and patient talk past each other, dancing around truths no one wants to face, their sessions become dangerously charged. Grove’s simple but marvelously elastic, emotive art is reminiscent of Jules Feiffer. Though there are glimpses of Emma’s traumatic past and daily struggles at work and home, the bulk of the narrative consists of therapy sessions. Yet the characters are drawn with so much personality that it doesn’t grow visually dull. With quiet ease, Grove draws readers into Emma’s world and makes them feel the complexities and contradictions of her experience. Grove proves an impressive new voice in comics. (May)
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