Spector’s debut graphic memoir, Red Rock Baby Candy (Fantagraphics, Mar.), details her years of infertility alongside her father’s cancer diagnosis.
How did you know you needed to write this book?
The largeness of my grief was uncontainable. I wanted burial ground, and writing became that for me. What we most lack in this world is a place for grief, especially in North America. You get your allotted time, but then you’re supposed to be done with it. I’m still not done with it.
How do the experiences of being queer and struggling with infertility speak to each other?
I came out as a teenager, and I’ve always been involved in queer community. With infertility, I was met with a double silence. There was no place for messing up this rosy picture of the perfect queer family. Positive image traps exist for reasons—in queer people’s case, because our families have been taken from us, and because we haven’t been safe to start families. Trying to get pregnant in the middle of this queer baby boom, nobody wanted to screw up that idea of “our reproductive organs work just fine.” But my reproductive organs were not working fine.
When I went looking for my people on the internet, years ago, there were people talking about infertility in this super conventional, super religious-ized way. I begrudge no one their angel babies, but that didn’t resonate with me. Where are the kickass femme dykes talking about this?
Are there ways that society approaches loss that you wanted to push against?
Our bodies are magical. I looked at images of cancer cells and thought, “Oh, they’re so breathtakingly beautiful.” Then I felt a bit like I had Patty Hearst syndrome. Why am I marveling—it’s the most horrific thing. But there’s this reconciliation: repetition and beauty and patterns. Cells look like flowers. And I realized, reproduction is the same as cancer. You can feel more than one thing at the same time.
How did you arrive at your collage aesthetic?
I needed poetry and richness and lavish detail, and to describe the hell out of what it was to go through all those intersections and all that grieving. And also the joy—there’s always this ribbon of deliciousness in my life, and I didn’t want it to be without that either.
The book told me what it wanted. It was brought to my attention that there are conventions of comics, like panels. I took it as a challenge. I incorporated them and started to play with them. There was a certain point where the book tilted, when it burst into color, and it starts with this image of a cake giving birth to a hummingbird. I had to make it by ripping up 1950s cookbooks. This whole world opened to me, and it surprised me, and it was scary as hell, but that’s when it became my voice.