Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cristy C. Road: Indestructible

Reviewed by: Victor Schwartzman

This book was published by Microcosm Publishing (http://www.microcosmpublishing.com/). Cristy C. Road’s website is http://www.croadcore.org/.

Victor has never met Cristy. He found out about her when he received a compliment about this site from Brooklyn Frank. Brooklyn Frank is a person and not a New York hot dog. Victor thanked him for his comment and asked Brooklyn Frank which books should be reviewed on this site. He mentioned Cristy. Victor contacted Cristy. She had never heard of Brooklyn Frank. But Cristy lives in Brooklyn, and Victor grew up in Brooklyn, so it all seems somehow connected, kind of like the circle of life from The Lion King, but without Walt Disney (who probably would not have liked this book).

It ain’t easy growing up in Miami as an Cuban overweight adolescent girl who starts out bisexual and eventually grows into being gay, at the same time an outcast in but a member of her high school, community and immediate family. It isn’t easy growing up, but Cristy had more than her share of crap to deal with.

This novel (that is not a novel) comes out of the zine world and looks it. The font is typewriter style, the layout cut and paste. The spelling and grammar would occasionally make White and Strunk fidget. The look of the book matches the troubled early life of the narrator, who appears suspiciously similar to the writer/artist, and whose name is, uh, Cristy Road.

The writing style can be awkward. At times the vocabulary does not match an adolescent’s—but then again, the story is told in retrospect and the awkwardness provides a realistic edge. Reading it feels like you are in the same room with Cristy as she tells you her early life story. The edge in the writing is matched by her bold black and white drawings—in your face art, using a blunt and somewhat cartoony style that effectively matches the writing style. The combination of words and art works nicely, playing off each other.

If you want a plot you should read another book. The book covers Cristy’s high school years, her ‘coming of age’, with that being an operative phrase in so many ways—she is obsessed with sex, along with punk rock, being oppressed, stupid boys and interesting girls. More a collection of memories tied together chronologically than a novel, the book has a genuine narrative power stemming from Cristy’s growth.

It is easier to show than explain:

One day, Cristy asks her high school biology teacher, Mr. Rodriguez, to discuss birth control. He is not pleased.
“’The basis of sex is procreation.’
‘No, it’s not. The sex you’re teaching us about only talks about the pleasure of dudes. Ya’ll know dudes gotta cum to make a baby, and girls don’t. Teaching this way only feeds to the idea that a girl’s pleasure isn’t as important as a dude’s. And hell knows everyone in this classroom wants to know how not to make babies as opposed to how to make them.’
‘Christy, if you don’t stop, I’m gonna ask you to leave the class.’
‘Awesome. The drugs are kicking in right now, anyway.’”

Or,

“’You’re a sell out. Last week you weren’t wearing fucking khakis and loafers. What’s your fucking deal?’ I asked Roberto one day.
‘Whatever Cristy. In the future, when you’re moshing in a pit somewhere, drunk off your ass—I’m gonna have a family. I’m gonna have money. I’m gonna be successful.’
‘Who are you to measure success? You’re just gonna end up fucking poor people over. You’re just gonna start shitting competition from the hole in your brain your CEO job is gonna drill. You and your imaginary family can suck it.’”

Or,

“On some nights, I found that girl-solidarity when this one girl, Marietta, sat on my bed until 3am talking about how useless facial masks and pussy deodorant were. I shared my room then with relatives, but sectioned off my side with yellow caution tape and a wall-collage of posters, flyers, and strategically placed crap. I was into dim lighting and denying others’ intrusion so I could achieve a private space for writing zines and jacking off. We talked about fucking, punk, metal, crank, and weed. I didn’t smoke weed at the time; I only wanted to be sociable and stay awake, mostly. On some nights, I also wanted to be skinny; but only Marietta knew this.”

Or,

“In my home our tone swerved by way of narrow traditions and belief systems. We went from talking about politicizing our choices to talking about how to raise baby parrots and make flan. At home there wasn’t a space for anything remotely sexual. While my culture welcomed that political progress that entailed fighting for fair pay and abiding by self-sufficiency—the revolution wasn’t very gay. Queerness seemed ten times more repressed in my cultural boundaries than that of white commercialized America.
’Why can’t queers just be a hot commodity?’ I asked Marietta. ‘You know, the way homos are in white people culture.’
‘Because you want to be respected for who you are, not your novelty.’
“Fake respect is better than none at all.’
“No really, it’s not, trust me.”

Cristy’s sexual growth mirrors her community situation as an outlaw. She hides who she is from her family, but can not abandon it: “It became okay that I couldn’t share my innermost feelings on oral sex, fisting, and Selene [a woman whom Cristy admires] with my family. Because we could talk about other things. We could talk about our formative heroes selling out, and about cast aside neighborhoods. We could talk about dismay and how it’s sometimes followed by deliverance.”

“We learn a lesson from every mistake, very apology, every assumption at love, every new friend, every lost friend, every reconciliation, every death, very bout of belligerence, every bad decision, every kiss, every fuck, and every failed attempt at starting that stupid punk rock band…. And it wasn’t invincibility, but we were surviving outside of those conditions we had fought off for years. In the end, we remained poised while doing what we were never meant to do. And people often told me that teenagers were never meant to love themselves.”

The book concludes with autographs and comments from her fellow students, as in a high school year book.

Cristy has graduated.

The World Is Ours--and Yours!

eXTReMe Tracker