Elevate Difference

Make Me A Woman

It’s no stretch to say that mainstream media gives us a limited range of what women can be, so much so that when we find a book that actually reflects the complexity of womanhood, we’re ecstatic. Make Me A Woman is just that book. Readers will be able to readily relate to Vanessa Davis and the daily events of her life, while also encountering just enough difference to sink into some pure escapism.

Make Me A Woman is a collection of Davis’s diary comics and drawings from 2004 to 2010. In watercolor, pen and ink, and pencil drawings torn from the pages of her sketchbook, Davis unveils the events of her childhood in South Florida, her life in New York in her early twenties, and finally her move to California, where she currently lives with her boyfriend. Davis tackles those seemingly indescribable everyday events—such as developing a crush on a stranger in her daily commute and dealing with awkward sexual encounters or unrequited love—with biting wit and aplomb.

Aspiring artists out there will find this collection inspirational. Davis details her series of low-paying jobs with an eye trained firmly on her career—a paid cartoonist. She also pens a few panels about facing the artist’s worst demon: procrastination. In addition to creating strips about her Jewish identity and hanging out with friends, this autobiographical cartoonist creates some of her funniest panels about her relationship with her mother and sister. Although Davis’s mother is the űber cool founder of the Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival, she makes her daughters cringe by her mere choice of words, as mothers are wont to do.

I found Davis’s collection of strips enjoyable. I loved the tiny details she adds to her comics, and the hilarious asides that she slips in. But what I love the most is the range of feelings that the cartoonist expresses in her art, such as anger, annoyance, disappointment, anxiety, physical pain, pining, self-pity, embarrassment, and bliss. What’s more, it’s refreshing to see a cartoonist who is not afraid to draw herself with some weight on her and does not obsess about her size in the book, except for the fat farm she went to in her teens, which she “enjoyed.”

I’ve read through the collection three times, and each time that I get to the end, I want more. Although her critique of artist Robert Crumb alone was worth the price of the book, I still wish that Davis had delved more into her life as a cartoonist.

Written by: Heather Leighton, November 21st 2010