Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir

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by Liz Prince

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Growing up, Liz Prince wasn't a girly girl, dressing in pink tutus or playing Pretty Pretty princess like the other girls in her neighborhood. But she wasn't exactly one of the guys either, as she quickly learned when her Little League baseball coach exiled her to the outfield instead of letting her take the pitcher's mound. Liz was somewhere in the middle, and

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Growing up, Liz Prince wasn't a girly girl, dressing in pink tutus or playing Pretty Pretty princess like the other girls in her neighborhood. But she wasn't exactly one of the guys either, as she quickly learned when her Little League baseball coach exiled her to the outfield instead of letting her take the pitcher's mound. Liz was somewhere in the middle, and Tomboy is the story of her struggle to find the place where she belonged.

Tomboy is a graphic novel about refusing gender boundaries, yet unwittingly embracing gender stereotypes at the same time, and realizing later in life that you can be just as much of a girl in jeans and a T-shirt as you can in a pink tutu. A memoir told anecdotally, Tomboy follows author and zine artist Liz Prince through her early childhood into adulthood and explores her ever-evolving struggles and wishes regarding what it means to "be a girl."

From staunchly refuting anything she perceived as being "girly" to the point of misogyny, to discovering through the punk community that your identity is whatever you make of it, regardless of your gender, Tomboy is as much humorous and honest as it is at points uncomfortable and heartbreaking.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Comics creator Prince (Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed?) makes her YA debut with a candid graphic memoir about growing up resisting all forms of girliness. Early on, Liz's family supports her wardrobe choices (blazers and baseball caps) and her interest in Little League; her schoolmates are merely puzzled. When she arrives at middle school, though, the pressure starts to build. Girlfriends whose sexuality is beginning to develop leave her behind or use her as a prop, and boys bully her relentlessly: "Loser dykes spotted in the wild!" Liz resists becoming a sexual being, and Prince's artwork resists sexuality, too; the cast is a series of endearing, childlike figures (even when they're smoking). A running visual expresses Liz's attempts to negotiate predetermined gender roles by marking out a figure that resists the standard bathroom-door symbols for "male" and "female." Prince's most important revelation—that in dressing like a boy, "I subscribed to the idea that there was only one form of femininity and that it was inferior to being a man"—gives readers space to question their own acquiescence to gender stereotypes. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
AWARDS: Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014 list * Texas Library Association (TLA) Maverick Graphic Novels List 2015
• YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens 2015 nomination
• Amelia Bloomer Project 2015 nomination * YALSA Quick Picks 2015 nomination * Cybils Awards 2014 nomination
• Teen Choice Book of the Year Awards nomination
• Broken Frontier Awards nomination
*Starred Review* “Prince explores what it means to be a tomboy in a magnificently evocative graphic memoir. ...Simple, line-based art provides a perfect complement to her keen narration, giving this an indie, intimate feel and leaving readers feeling like they really know her. Liz’s story, captured with wry humor and a deft, visceral eye, is a must-read for fans who fell for Raina Telgemeier’s work in middle school. Spectacular; a book to make anyone think seriously about society’s preordained gender roles.” - Kirkus Reviews

*Young Adult Lit-Pick* "The heroine of this charming, gently subversive graphic memoir loves Little League and hates dresses, so what does she grow up to be? Gloriously herself." - People Magazine

“Prince’s tongue-in-cheek black-and-white line drawings, in a charming style reminiscent of Jeffrey Brown’s autobiographical comics, pack a punch in this empowering memoir that should have ample appeal for any kid who feels like an outsider.” - Booklist

"A great read for those who were tomboys and those who simply love great graphic novel memoirs." - The Hub, Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

"Any girl who grew up with big love for sports, skate shoes, and/or giant, shape-obscuring T-shirts will know how contentious it is when you don’t fit the flawlessly feminine formula of the “average teen girl.” This is why Liz Prince’s latest graphic novel, Tomboy, is a fantastic primer on gender politics. Through a series of hilarious and heartbreaking episodes from her youth, Prince examines just why being comfortable in her own skin—and sweatpants—made everyone around her so freaking uncomfortable. It makes being a tomboy a political statement." - Rookie

"Liz Prince has been a cult and beloved figure in the world of comics for awhile, and in her autobiographical book Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir, she discusses the subject of growing up, in her inimitable, honest and simple style ... makes for a fascinating look at what “identity” means in the process of growing up." - Flavorwire

"At its core, Tomboy is a book about the often painful consequences of finding and expressing one’s individuality despite the pressure to conform. What makes this memoir stand out is Liz’s brave and humorous outlook—her refusal to capitulate in even the most distressing of situations." - The Book Trib

"Prince’s art takes this book from good to knock-out. Where a memoir about gender expression and identity is always welcome, the way Prince uses illustrations to really showcase those feelings and experiences visually takes this to an entirely new and memorable level. Buy this one. Read it, then reread it, then pass it along to teens and adults who are interested in discussing or who have experienced the challenges of our society’s deep-seeded beliefs in gender." - Book Riot

"One of the reasons Tomboy works so well is that it is done in comic form. It is one thing to read a story and to follow dialogue, but it is another thing to actually get to see the small triumphs and daily challenges and indignities depicted visually, and that is something that Prince drawings skillfully capture." -

"The triumph of her story, and of Liz herself, is that she was always strong enough to be who she was even when it might have been easier to just play a part. It’s an enjoyable and even comforting read as you find yourself rooting for Liz to find the acceptance you know a smart, funny, confident person like her will eventually find. ….A lot of younger readers could benefit from reading the book’s lessons about self acceptance and what it means to be a girl." - Mental Floss

"In her new graphic memoir (think comic book meets autobiography), Tomboy, Prince details her early years in words and pictures—and the result is both bleakly funny and achingly relatable. ...Prince’s simple pen-and-ink drawings perfectly exemplify her plucky nature and slyly complement her feminist message: When we propagate the notion that there’s only one version of “womanhood,” we limit the creative potential of girls everywhere." - PureWow

"Relatable, hilarious, and insightful, Tomboy is a must-read for anyone who feels like a square peg in a round hole." - Bookish

"An intriguing portrait of growing up as a gender-nonconforming girl in a world fixated on the gender binary. ...Prince’s story is a testament to the joys of finding one’s place in a world so adamant about finding that place for you. And it’s a story that, filled with self-deprecating humor and a flowing narrative, is easy to finish in one sitting. But perhaps Tomboy’s success lies most in its ability to get you to contemplate your own experiences growing up—swimming with your shirt on, searching for that special valentine, navigating social anxiety—and the ways in which we have all transgressed, and perpetuated, our society’s rigid definitions of what it means to be a girl or a boy." - Willamette Week

"Part hilarious, part heartbreaking and part hopeful, this graphic memoir covers the challenges of growing up and being different. ...Just like Liz, this novel is sure to stand out against the crowd. Tomboy is a story readers aren't likely to forget." -

"Everyone is in agreement that Liz totally killed it with this book." - Atomic Books

"Liz Prince tells gender norms to eat dirt. A delightful, thoughtful, and compulsively readable memoir. And an important one." - Ariel Schrag , author of Adam and Potential 

"Liz Prince may have been an uncertain, confused kid, but she’s a confident and sincerely expressive cartoonist. Tomboy is a funny and relatable look at what every child has to deal with at some point—figuring out who you really are inside, when everyone else only sees what they think you should be on the outside." - Jeffrey Brown , author of ClumsyJedi Academy and Darth Vader and Son

"It's hard to imagine anyone failing to be charmed by this entertaining, clever, and genuinely funny memoir of growing up with gender identity confusion. Even this pretty unconfused regular old dude found plenty to identify with in Liz Prince’s story of adolescent bafflement, exploration, and discovery all delivered, like all the best such stories, with a light touch, wry wit, understated irony, and not one iota of preachiness. Meaning: I’m a fan. Go Liz!" - Frank Portman , author of King Dork 

"Tomboy is a thoughtful, honest look into the evolution and acceptance of personal gender identity, as told by a smart-mouhed punk named Liz Prince. I wish it had existed when I was in high school." - Nicole Georges , author of Calling Dr. Laura

"Liz Prince portrays the awkwardness and humiliation of childhood with wonderful (not to mention painful) accuracy. Any kid that picks up this book is going to be privy to secrets most of us don’t learn until it’s too late, and any adult who reads it will be reminded of an essential truth: that’s it’s okay to be exactly who we want to be, no matter how weird everyone else thinks we are. Tomboy isn’t a self help book, but it should be." - Julia Wertz , author of Drinking at the Movies and The Infinite Wait  

"It's not very often you read a goofy coming-of-age comic written with an astutely critical lens... and then there's Liz Prince's Tomboy. By tackling everything from Green Day to girl-hate, Prince does a kick-ass job at dissecting gender politics (and playground politics) through riotous anecdotes from her childhood, making this feminist inquiry, well, fun." - Suzy X. , illustrator at Rookie Mag 

"Navigating life as a young tomboy would have been a lot easier if I'd had Liz's brave, hilarious, and honest story to guide me. Reading this book will make weird kids like us feel a little less alone." - Melissa Mendes , author of Freddy Stories

VOYA, December 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 5) - Lucy Schall
Prince, with strong family support, defies society’s gender standards and becomes the female that she wants to be. From the age of two, she rejects dresses and their girly aura. She experiences bullying, name calling, friendship betrayals, and anxiety over puberty and dating and challenges her school’s gender-based dress code. At seventeen, she finds a home in a punk/geek/nerd/alternative community, where she can examine society’s definitions with distance and objectivity and be comfortable being a girl outside of society’s narrow definitions. Stark line drawings complement the text as Prince dissects society’s alienating perspectives. Her opening chapter explains her attachment to the tomboy lifestyle and an identity that she still holds with pride. She describes herself as “strong-willed” but should add “strong-minded” as she delineates her personal distinctions and differences. Her painful journey will resonate with more than gender-issue teens. The group with whom she finds comfort and true friendship encompasses a broad range of talent and individuality. The balanced adult perspective Prince achieves in her memoir will hold the most appeal for older high school students, college students, and adults who have faced similar challenges, especially given some of the language used and the situations explored. It is a strong addition to any library collection, and teachers who deal with gender issues and bullying will find great material for discussion and illustration. Reviewer: Lucy Schall; Ages 15 to 18.
Children's Literature - Hazel Buys
Anyone who has ever felt their sense of personal identity falls somewhere outside the usual conventions will relate to Prince’s memoir of her childhood and adolescence. Her favorite, and just about only, choice in clothing was tee shirt, gray blazer or flannel shirt, jeans, sneakers, and baseball cap. Combined with her short hair and androgynous looks, she was sometimes mistaken for a boy. This mistake is ironic because, while never identifying as transgender, Prince persisted in wanting to be a boy but she did not want to be mistaken for one. The bright spot in her life was having a mother and a father who accepted her for who she was and encouraged her to be herself. One has to wonder, however, about parents who do not suggest to their pre-teen daughter that wearing boys’ underwear to a sleep-over camp might cause her no small amount of grief. Later, in high school, Prince’s gender confusion makes her a target of bullying and personal violence as her idiosyncrasies become markers for a level of individuality that is poorly tolerated in the tightly stratified social system of most high schools. Though Prince found a refuge in transferring to a special school where none of the students fit the usual definitions of male and female, one wonders where the thinking adult was in all this. Prince makes only a couple of references to teachers who interceded or helped her during this time. Her work has been praised as “entertaining,” “clever,” “witty,” and “without peachiness.” Nevertheless, much of the content is difficult and painful. The comic book format lightens but does not lift the burden of the awkwardness and humiliation of a childhood lived on the outskirts of “normal.” The line drawings are expressive and energetic and support the unisex subtext of the book, although this treatment can make it difficult to differentiate between the characters. Prince’s book would be a good addition to a middle school library or as part of a program on gender identity, social tolerance, and individuality. Reviewer: Hazel Buys; Ages 14 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Prince knew from an early age that she was not a typical girl. The only pictures of her in a dress were from when she was a baby and could not protest. She hates dresses and all things "girly." Fortunately, she had supportive parents who did not force her into traditional gender roles and who let her wear the kinds of clothing she wanted. Most of Prince's friends were boys, and her fantasies and playtime were devoted to being a hero, not a princess. Her wardrobe choices made her the target of ridicule and bullying in Boston and in Santa Fe, where her family moved when she was in early elementary school. In their first neighborhood, most of her friends were boys, but she found some girlfriends after the family moved. It was the first time she found girls with similar interests in comics and Ghostbusters, and it was also when she realized that she did not want to be a boy but, rather, wanted the freedom that came with being one. Meeting a good friend of her mother's, who encouraged her talent and interest in comics, and transferring to a very small, highly experimental high school helped her become comfortable with her choice as a tomboy. Although Prince has created a work that will affirm the choices of tomboys, the black-and-white illustrations show little variation among characters, and the text is sometimes difficult to read. The chronology is also confusing, as Prince often jumps from childhood to adolescence in the space of one frame and then jumps back to childhood again. Purchase where graphic novel memoirs are in demand.—Suanne B. Roush, formerly at Osceola High School, Seminole, FL
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-07-16
Prince explores what it means to be a tomboy in a magnificently evocative graphic memoir. From the age of 2, Liz knows she hates dresses. As a child, she wears boys clothes and plays with boys. However, as she enters her teen years, things change. Still wishing to dress like a boy and disdainful of all things girly—including the inevitable biology of puberty—she stays true to herself and her identity, but not without struggling to fit into a teenage society that neatly compartmentalizes how boys and girls should act. Liz's troubles are magnified as she navigates the ways of the heart, falling for boys who often pass her over for girls who are more feminine. As she stumbles and bumbles her way to friends who will accept her, she pulls readers along that oh-so-tough and bumpy road of adolescence. Simple, line-based art provides a perfect complement to her keen narration, giving this an indie, intimate feel and leaving readers feeling like they really know her. Liz's story, captured with wry humor and a deft, visceral eye, is a must-read for fans who fell for Raina Telgemeier's work in middle school.Spectacular; a book to make anyone think seriously about society's preordained gender roles (Graphic memoir. 14 & up)

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Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

Liz Prince's first book, Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed?, was nominated for several awards and won the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Debut in 2005. Born in Boston, MA, she grew up in Santa Fe, NM, and has been drawing comics since the third grade. She has since produced many of her own comics and mini-comics, which mix her real-life foibles with charming cartooning and comic timing. Fans have described her work as being "cute," making them feel "warm and fuzzy," or simply being "too much information." She now lives outside of Boston and drinks more than her fair share of coffee.

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Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow!!! I love this book so much!! Im 14 years old and im a major tomboy....i shaved my head and slipped into boyscouts. And now im in an all boys school. I guess you could say im transgender. Every activity i do (sports,programs) is all boys. So far im a boy..... i avoid the locker room though! I really hope you will enjoy it!!!! Bc i sure did! I love graphic novels!
WonderWmn More than 1 year ago
Reading this, I could identify with Liz on so many levels.  Myself, I was a tomboy.  I was the girl hanging with the boys during recess, playing baseball with them or playing with cars in the dirt.  I was the one shunned by the girls from about mid-first grade, through 8th grade.  I can still remember the hurt I felt, coming back from summer vacation and the boys treating me differently because I was a girl and the girls being complete witches because I wasn't into all that girl stuff.  I remember being called a boy, innocently, on a few occasions. This book represents even more to me though.  I have a daughter, who is 16.  The last time she wore a dress was to a funeral in first grade.  As soon as we got home, she promptly took it off and gave it to her sister.  As a baby, she was the one with the sturdy squared off shoulders.  As a small child, she was the girl who I shopped in the boy section for.  Her sister would get a Barbie for a gift and she would get the equivalent in a Ken doll.  Pokemon, Avatar, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc, were her go to items.  As a teenager, her dress style is very boyish, she likes to wear "tails" on her jeans and she has crushes on boys.  When looking at the authors picture, she could definitely be mistaken as sisters with my daughter.  Parts of this book have helped me understand my own daughter even more.  The author comes across very personable with her drawings and real life happenings.  So many boyish girls are assumed to be lesbians that it's so hard for them to accept their own identities and feel good about themselves.  I feel that this book should be required reading for all genders and starting in middle school.  It's an educational novel that doesn't feel quite like it since there are drawings, but the reader can relate because either they have been in that situation or know of someone who has been.   The memoir runs the gamut of feelings.  There are funny parts, scary parts, sibling issues, crushes, sexuality and so much more.  The author comes deals with everything in such a great way.  The graphics are spot on and you can imagine yourself there, in that moment.  An easy read, which is great for the demographic age the book is primarily focused on, that of a teenage girl finding her own identity, embracing it and understanding it.  I enjoyed the Epilogue too.  Parents, this is not a book to be afraid of when I speak of sexuality.  The author gives the reader a true sense on how there are pressures, but that you must be true to yourself and not give in to that. I really can't say enough good things about this book, it was a wonderful read and it hit on all the points of being a tomboy throughout life so well.  Tomorrow, I'm giving the book to my daughter and I know she will appreciate it and the author will have a new friend from it.  Liz Prince, thank you for showing the world the life and feelings of a true tomboy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Be yourself! Yes, Liz Prince you are a gem! Such a wonderful story about Liz the author and illustrator. Growing up recalling how she wanted nothing more than to dress the way she preferred but the stigma of being a girl and expected to act and dress like one was the problem here. Kids, ahh..... yes those elementary years that causes a child to get mixed signals in their head. Was it really mixed signals? Friend and foes, why do they care how I look? Why can't they see the person inside, not the person on the outside? Or was she trying really hard to get them to see the outside more not the inside? This tale takes you on a journey through her beginnings, wanting no more than to wear boy clothes. Trusty red baseball cap, gray hand-me-down blazer, cool sneakers, totally happy just as long she don't have to wear a dress. Like Liz said, "I was born strong-willed and I was born a tomboy." I couldn't help but laugh at that! So much fun to read and humorous in so much ways. But the ugliness children experience because you are different, no matter what the difference is, kids can be so mean and that meanness create a phobia if you let it. The metaphors, absorb information like a sponge, and repeat it back to the world, "BARF." Ha ha .... hilarious! Liz make friends and a couple of them have issues, here she experience the ridicules that comes with her dress garbs. A boy falls for her but she wants to be only friends and when she falls for a boy she is told he has a girlfriend but falling for a boy doesn't stop here. Liz is maturing and she does not like it, now it's feminine things she has to worry about. Using a T-shirt to hide her body when she swims which of course weighs her down in the water. Moving away meeting new people, here she goes again and again. Bullied because of how she looks, called all kinds of stupid names. She starts to question herself. She persevere even though a bully drew first blood knocking her to the ground where she scraped her knees and hands. This story touched on so many things that only a memoir can tell the tale. Smokes and pill popping Dramamine and the middle finger and the "F" swear word mentioned three or four times, and lesbian, gayness, loser dykes, oh don't forget, "pull down your pants and show me you're a girl." You see all this had to be said in the story to make you understand the ordeal the author went through and I would not have want it any other way. Now with that said, I really enjoyed this story, even though I got really pissed Liz taking the brunt end of it. Her story maybe can transcend the message it's okay to be different, with a 'but' plastered at the end. Liz faced all the trials and tribulations growing up and the way she faced the problem or sometimes it faced her were astounding. The author is a brave one to write down the effect of being a tomboy. Now Liz decided to dress in her dad's sweater vest, blue and red striped tie, blue and gray plaid shirt with a corduroy pants. She did look like a boy though! With all her craziness going on Liz meets Harley, coolest adult ever. Zine enters Liz's life through Harley and from there Liz exploded into the world with her talent in writing and graphic drawing. Now to end my review I found this part in the book so profound, "F _ _ _ girl culture telling me how to be feminine. I don't need to look like a super model to be a girl, and yet I've been told so through societal osmosis that I do. I want to celebrate being a woman, but I'm shown all the ways that I fall short on a never ending basis." Yes, way to go Liz. Yay, still jumping up and down!!!! People judge you no matter what, they can't see what a gem you are inside. I once was judged because I looked poor, what? Words doesn't hurt, well 'WRONG.' You move on but still that little bugger stay's with you. Judgmental people should get a life, they probably don't have one so it's easier to mess around with someone else. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more of Liz Prince books. AWESOME READ!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you ZestBooks & Liz Prince (author of Tomboy) I received this book to blog & review with ZestBooks. Review from Darlene Cruz