When you think of Miami, you don’t often think of punk. I grew up in South Florida, I’ve come back here (for now). Miami is anti-punk – superficial, isolationist, materialistic. It’s possible to be punk in this city – to create and exist outside of the mainstream. Yet I’m always curious to see how others form their own identities, their own cultures, in a place that doesn’t do much to support them. This is what made me read Cristy C. Road’s illustrated novel, Indestructible– a memoir of adolescence in Miami in the early nineties, the story of a Cuban-American punk rock girl.
Road’s narrative has an emotional immediacy, a social relevance that makes you believe her voice, makes you belong to her world. You forget how old you are, you are with her- drinking a 32 ounce of beer (“because forties were illegal in Florida”), going to punk shows, listening to a two-minute song for empowerment.
She strongly identifies with her Cuban family, her working-class background. She questions everything – beauty standards, sexuality. But she struggles with outside influences that try to dictate her appearance, thoughts and behavior. Her feminist mother tells her to be happy with her unibrow – but Cristy is learning how to “[fish] for strength.” Sometimes she’s not impervious to those influences: “...I weakened and shaved the bridge between my eyes.”
Road learns to talk back to those who tell her she’s not “Latina enough,” or who insist she decide on her sexuality, “choose a side” – gay or straight. She finally secures a hard-won sense of identity when confronting a boy who sexually harasses her at school: “I stopped silencing myself... how nice it would be to one day let ‘shit’ make me stronger.”
The artwork has the same level of immediacy. Road’s black and white illustrations are cinematic frames which include vivid action scenes – a sexual encounter, a fist-fight – as well as intimate, candid portraits of Road and her friends. A particularly haunting picture of a girl named Selene appears throughout the book. She stares at us – unwavering, omniscient.
Sometimes the prose style of Indestructible veers towards the polemic, and takes the reader away from having their own interpretations flow organically from the text. Overall, Road’s novel is a testimony of survival – a powerful reminder of how we must create (and re-create) our identities – whether the mainstream is with us, or not.