cover image Spellbound


Bishakh Som. Street Noise, $18.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-951491-03-1

Som (Apsara Engine) turns the conventional transgender memoir on its head in these witty and inventive diary-style autofiction comics, which reimagine episodes of her life played out by her cisgender quasi-avatar Anjali. Anjali acts as both a stand-in for Som before her real-life transition, and her own distinct, fully realized character. Through Anjali, Som recalls her Bengali-American upbringing, friendships and dating in N.Y.C., and how her lifelong love of art gets shunted into architecture to please her parents (nonetheless teaching her to “think expansively and sideways and diagonally”). Between flashbacks, Anjali/Som abruptly departs from a toxic architectural firm to pursue comics full-time, with the typical woes of self-setting deadlines (and lots of cooking and talking to her cat). Som’s design choices display her architectural eye, from the precise layout of word balloons to crisp interiors and glowing landscapes. In the chapter “Elevator Pitch,” Som recounts meeting Titania, a trans woman, at a party; as they bond and begin a relationship, the emotional consequence plays out differently for Anjali as a character than for Som herself (as she explains in an afterword). In capturing both experiences, Som distinguishes her dual narrative talents. As Anjali remarks, “I’ve always been this way.” Creative nonfiction aficionados and fans of queer comics alike will flock to this literally transformative work. (Aug.)