Author: Lilli Sohn (translated from French by Sara Sugihara)
Publish Date: January 2022
Publisher: Street Noise Books
Catalog ID: ISBN: 978 -1951491130
Author website: https://www.facebook.com/lili.sohn
Guest Book Review by Mae Czerwiec
Author and illustrator Lili Sohn informs us in the introduction to her graphic novel (/memoir?) Vagina Love: An Owner’s Manual that she is “an artist, not a doctor”, and her work does not claim to provide comprehensive medical knowledge about the female* reproductive system. What it does well, however, is to take the reader on an adventure through topics often considered too taboo to discuss and makes learning about them fun.
In her conclusion, Sohn writes that “each subject [she] introduced was like a door opening”, which is exactly how it feels to read the book. From what it means to be a woman, to lesser-known features of female* anatomy, to an in-depth discussion of the menstrual cycle, Sohn introduces and makes the reader comfortable with many different conversations related to vaginas. Her humor and wit are charming, and her willingness to share personal anecdotes heightens the approachability of her work. On no one topic is Vagina Love a definitive or comprehensive resource, as Sohn tends to move through each section quickly, but the credence it gives to a range of topics provides an excellent starting point for all of them. And the author also provides numerous resources for further reading and learning within the dedicated section.
A huge strength of Vagina Love is its unflinching willingness to open up important conversations. For example, both cisgender and transgender voices are featured throughout the book, and Sohn refuses to allow womanhood to be defined by anatomy, or for the anatomy of the vagina to be claimed solely by women. Her vibrant, fun drawings also eloquently capture vaginal anatomical diversity that is rarely seen in sex education. Sohn also highlights the shortcomings of gynecological care and encourages readers to speak up about their own experiences with OB/GYN practices.
On the whole, Vagina Love: An Owner’s Manual by Lili Sohn provides a fun, approachable introduction into an enthusiastic exploration of the vagina and its implications. Not exceedingly scientific but definitely friendly and accessible, this work is a light, fun, and informative read for all, whether vagina owner or not.
*I, here, use “female” as the general scientifically acceptable term for bodies that possess a vagina, uterus, ovaries, and breasts, but recognize that no one thing- chromosomal makeup, anatomy, hormones, or presentation- defines a person’s gender, and applaud the author’s equal sensitivity to this language
Mae (Maddie) Czerwiec (she/her) is a sophomore studying biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame, with minors in bioengineering and health humanities. She hopes to pursue a career in medicine after graduation and is an avid reader and follower of graphic medicine, particularly those works directed at the queer young adult audience.