Books with Pictures are Better

04 Mar 2021

By Mira Waligora

I love graphic novels. As an avid reader and visual learner, graphic novels catch my interest and concentration beautifully. I love getting lost in the illustrations, and especially for emotionally charged subjects (as in Maus or Persepolis) I believe it allows for a more personal connection between the book and the reader and for a more delicate processing of hard emotions. When I saw Kate Charlesworth’s event I bought the book (from of course!) straightaway. Because it’s a graphic novel, but also because I believe in knowing and understanding histories and I know nothing of the lesbian history or movement.

Changing the Future in Graphic Form was a conversation between Kate Charlesworth and Val McDermid about Kate’s recent graphic novel Sensible Footwear, A Girl’s Guide. The conversation glided between Kate’s impressive career as a cartoonist and illustrator, the process of creating the novel and both speakers’ personal experiences.

Both authors agreed that we need to know our history, “our stories are important” proclaimed Kate. She says she wanted to make lesbians more visible. Val agreed with this and explained that even though she enjoyed watching the recent Channel 4 Drama It’s a Sin, she thought “Where are the women?! Where are the lesbians?”, they were after all part of the movement she says. She gives credit to the powerful show but it made her feel as though lesbians “were written out of a chunk of history”. I found this an interesting insight, as personally although I take a keen interest in knowing and educating myself on histories and stories of people, lesbian histories are definitely ones I know least about.

There was a lot of discussion about the artistic process of writing this novel. Combining personal memoir with a history of a movement, what was chosen to be included and what was left out. Were people consulted about being in the novel? (They were and some did not want to be names, hence Ms X). The different styles of brush and colours throughout the book to mark different eras and emotions were explored, with Kate showing us parts of the book on Zoom. Kate and Val further discussed different forms of illustration writing, comics (which can often be an early introduction to reading), and zines which can be produced at home and as Kate said you don’t even need to be able to draw to make them, stick figures are enough!

Both women say they lived through great changes and there are many more changes happening today. The other and the unknown so easily scare people and it’s a simple way to vilify individuals we don’t understand or blame them for things we are uncomfortable with.

Hence some people being uncomfortable with the perceived speed things are happening at today but there is excitement to be had for the “spectrum of what lies before us, people can embrace possibilities of who they feel they are, who they understand themselves to be” says Kate. She just wants “people to have good happy lives” to the extent that they can, and I couldn’t agree more. We should all take pride in “celebrating the glory of diversity” and look with pride and love at the beauty of the “aurora queerialis” of today.

If you missed Changing the Future in Graphic Form you can watch again with this link until 26th March. Kate and Val's books are available here to purchase