Growing up, Nicole Georges had always believed that her father was dead. Then at the age of twenty-three, Nicole’s friend took her to a psychic, who informed her that her father wasn’t dead. It’s a secret Nicole sits on for a long time, until finally broaches the subject and her sister spills the beans: no, Nicole’s father never died of colon cancer.
Nicole Georges’s graphic memoir is part coming-of-age, part unlocking-family secrets story about growing up in a stressful household. Her mother dated a lot and was occasionally in abusive relationships, and the stress manifested itself in Nicole in different ways She also grew up in hippie vegan Portland, raised chickens, and refined her art. By the time she was twenty-three, she was keeping a lot of her life compartmentalized: she was still in the closet where her mother was concerned, didn’t know how to broach the subject of her father with the rest of her family, and was trying to navigate the tricky waters of her relationship (which involved living with lots of dogs and traveling with her girlfriend on their band’s tour). The questions about what really happened to her father start to eat at her, and the confusion finally culminates with a desperate phone call to ultra-conservative call-in advice show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, whom Nicole occasionally hate-listens to.
I loved everything about this book. Nicole’s black-and-white artwork is beautiful. Whether she’s discussing painful episodes from her childhood, her tendency to zone out whenever she’s feeling cornered, or even describing mundane daily life in Portland, Nicole finds creative ways to illustrate her story. I was most impressed (and amused) by the ways she illustrated things that are much harder to convey, such as that increasing feeling of dread people sometimes get in high-stress situations. She’s an artist I’ll be keeping my eyes on in the future.
Calling Dr. Laura was published by Mariner Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in January 2013.