Author: Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson
Publish Date: June 12, 2018
Publisher: Limerence Press
guest review by A. David Lewis
A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns is a not a work of Graphic Medicine; it is a work for all audiences, regardless of field, thereby making it perhaps just as vital to, if not targeted for, Graphic Medicine. Whereas sex-positive informative works like Oh Joy, Sex Toy! or women health-focused anthologies like Graphic Reproduction clearly announce their relevance to gender and medical concerns in the comics form, A Quick & Easy Guide… could easily get overlooked, dismissed as a narrow exploration for linguists, activists, or youth educators. And that would be Graphic Medicine’s loss.
For one, creators Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson practice exactly what Graphic Medicine so often preaches: they take on a delicate and complex topic with panache, humor, and sensitivity, leveraging the best techniques of the medium toward their goal. In fact their respective character designs aid the discussion, at once challenging readers’ abilities to categorize either of them while also minimizing any need to do so. They dissect the issue of gendered language through their visualization as well as their dialog. From Archie, audiences experience the daily frustration and mounting pain of being misgendered, usually by accident but sometimes maliciously; from Tristan, readers enter the viewpoint of the hapless ally, eager to show kindness and acceptance of their friend but also encountering into numerous pitfalls and blindspots. While they succeed at blending their approaches and experiences, they also shift from direct confessional to casual discussion to graphical charts. The effect matches the intent: nothing is left unspoken, and consideration is given to all, with kindness.
Moreover, even as Bongiovanni and Jimerson execute the discussion of gendered pronouns in a manner aligned with Graphic Medicine, they also address such a wide span of circumstances that the issue can be applied to a wealth of healthcare settings. That is, just because A Quick & Easy Guide… isn’t specifically and narrowly aimed at Graphic Medicine does not mean the work would not be beneficial for the field and its practitioners. Jimerson says, “Gender neutral pronouns are an ever-growing part of life. Not just in your friend group, but also your workplace, school, and government.” And your hospital, your clinic, your medical school, your library, your pharmacy, your lab, etcetera, etcetera.
This is the perfect little book and the best 15 minutes any reader, especially comics enthusiasts but particularly Graphic Medicine advocates, could spend their time. Accessible, thoughtful, and witty (in a Dad-joke sort of way), its form expertly follows function. Judgment is suspended, learning is maximized, and humanity blossoms.
A. David Lewis earned his Ph.D. in Religion and Literature from Boston University and his M.A. in English Literature from Georgetown University while developing original graphic novels such as The Lone and Level Sands and Some New Kind of Slaughter. He is the co-editor of Graven Images: Religion in Comic Books and Graphic Novels and Digital Death: Mortality and Beyond in the Online Age. Lewis teaches in the Greater Boston area and was a 2015 Eisner Award nominee for American Comics, Literary Theory, and Religion: The Superhero Afterlife. In 2017, he co-edited Muslims Superheroes: Religion, Islam, and Representation with Martin Lund. Lewis is a founding member of Sacred and Sequential and an Executive Board Member for the Comics Studies Society.