A Comic About Gender

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Pub Date 05 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 31 Mar 2022

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Graphic artist Rhea Ewing celebrates the incredible diversity of experiences within the transgender community with this vibrant and revealing debut.

For fans of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Meg-John Barker’s Queer, Fine is an essential graphic memoir about the intricacies of gender identity and expression. As Rhea Ewing neared college graduation in 2012, they became consumed by the question: What is gender? This obsession sparked a quest in their quiet Midwest town, where they anxiously approached both friends and strangers for interviews to turn into comics. A decade later, their project has exploded into a fantastical and informative portrait of a surprisingly vast community spread across the country. Questions such as How do you identify? invited deep and honest accounts of adolescence, taking hormones, changing pronouns—and how these experiences can differ depending on culture, race, and religion. Amidst beautifully rendered scenes emerges Ewing’s own visceral story growing up in rural Kentucky, grappling with their identity as a teenager, and ultimately finding themself through art—and by creating something this very fine.

About the Author: Rhea Ewing (they/them) is a comic illustrator and fine artist who graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BFA in drawing and printmaking. They currently live in California, taking artistic inspiration from the state's diverse landscapes.

(Sorry, the PDF DRC is too large for Kindle)

Graphic artist Rhea Ewing celebrates the incredible diversity of experiences within the transgender community with this vibrant and revealing debut.


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EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781631496806
PRICE $21.00 (USD)

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Average rating from 98 members

Featured Reviews

I really enjoyed this comic about the full spectrum of gender identities and how people identify within their bodies! The art was great, and the interviewees and author left me feeling a lot more educated/clear on gender identity, and even my own place on the spectrum as somebody who is currently questioning!

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This is a great title about the wide spectrum of gender. Ewing's use of interviews along with their own thoughts on gender gives a wide variety of opinions and experiences. It's a great not only for trans, non-binary, and individuals in the process of questioning their gender; but also could help to show people who have never thought about gender as a spectrum just how diverse and nuanced gender can be.

I really loved how Ewing acknowledges their shortcomings: they state in the text that they're not a trained researcher, and that they never thought about the intersection of gender and race/ethnicity/culture before starting this project. Yet they did an excellent job by interviewing a plethora of people from a variety of backgrounds giving them different views and perspectives to learn from and share with readers.

I would highly recommend this title for anyone interested in learning about just how nuanced, diverse, and different gender can be.

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What started as a school project, turned into a decade-long quest interviewing (56) people across the spectrum of gender identities.

It was beautiful to see how everyone had different answers to all the posed questions. This just goes to show you how fluid gender is and there is more to it than a binary option on a questionnaire.

Themes: femininity, masculinity, race, gender expression, body image, hormones, health care, labels, relationships, bathrooms, housing, and the queer community. All of these things factor into ones identity.

Amidst other peoples personal stories is Ewing's own story growing up in rural Kentucky, grappling with their identity as a teenager, and ultimately finding themself.

CW: gender dysphoria, transphobia, racism, ableism, body image issues, drug use, sex work, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt

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*Many thanks to W. W. Norton & Company and Netgallery for the eARC of this book*

Note: I am a non-binary person

TW: Mentions of death, suicide ideation, murder, discrimination, medical dismissal, transphobia, gender and body dysphoria, sex, abusive relationships

Rhea Ewing's done a fantastic job of translating all their interviews with some amazing people into an interesting and educational, and often emotion, journey through each panel of their artwork. There were so many interesting and varied viewpoints from each person regarding the same questions, and nothing was held back.

So much credit needs to go to the interviewees though. They were all incredibly raw, open ,and vulnerable, and shared many sacred personal experiences, as well as traumatic and scarring moments.

I really appreciated Rhea's honesty when confronting their own ignorance. When they find they have privilege connected to their race, they own up to it, and take responsibility. I also really liked the focus on the aspects of privilege and exclusion that can occur in the LGBTQIA community, as well as even trans spaces.

Masterfully executed, and sorely needed, I cannot recommend this book enough.

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This book does a great job at introducing the reader to many different ways people identify and it's being published at exactly the right time. The author started this project while in college, partly as a way to understand their own identity. They interviewed numerous people and compiled those interviews into this book.

With so many books being challenged in libraries, we needed something like Fine. There are no sexual images for the pearl-clutchers to point to as a reason to exclude this title from a collection. It doesn't preach or dictate. What it does is allow people to better understand one another and don't we all need a little more understanding in our lives?

I couldn't be happier with Fine. The diversity is a welcome breath of fresh air. I have already recommended it to colleagues and friends and I only finished it yesterday!

My thanks to Liveright Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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"Fine" is an amazing deep dive into the journey of gender identity. Ewing did their research and they did it well. Interviews with countless sources, people from different backgrounds (race, class, sexuality, religion, etc...), and in-depth questions were key to unlocking the sheer amount of information in this graphic novel.

The art is quirky and charming, and their knack for giving character to some of the anonymous interviewees is inspiring. I was really fond of the superhero one!

This is a LONG graphic novel (but in all honesty it's needs to be to tell these stories well) so it's something you'll be able to pick up and put down or re-read sections. I got emotional at some points and needed to take some breaks but in a good "holy cow that really hit me in the feels" kind of way.

Very excited to add this to my library collection as well as my personal collection!

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"Fine" by Rhea Ewing is a fantastic graphic novel that takes a deep look into gender through interviews with friends of the author and strangers from all over the country. A lot of topics around gender are covered in this book and each one made me stop and think for a while. It was much more than what I was expecting, in a very pleasant way and was an insightful read. I highly recommend it and will definitely be putting it on the purchase list for the high school library I work for.

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Note: Post goes live a month before publication date, so March 3, 2022
Publication date: April 5, 2022
My Thoughts:

This comic starts with the author/ilustrator's own niggling question about gender and how gender is defined. As they went further into collecting stories from a diverse group of people in the American Midwest, Rhea moved from outsider researcher to insider participant. The initial question moves from a scientific curiosity to a personal quest for self.

What I appreciate about this is that like the anthology Growing Up Trans: In Our Own Words, this comic's power is in Rhea's ability to be a participant in their own truth seeking. This kind of honesty around grasping complexity, including going further into culture and diversity to further complicate simple answers is helpful for young students who are themselves trying to identify and define themselves beyond the binary markers that are set forth for them in the home, in the school, even in society.

As teachers, if we do not have a book like this or Growing up Trans in our classroom, the message we are sending is that it is not important. Even if we are well meaning and have just not thought about it or seen something like this as a gap in our classroom library, we are in fact making a statement. As part of our social equity agenda as teachers, we need to diversify our bookshelves and bring forward stories that address more than just race. This is a great start.

From the Publisher:

As graphic artist Rhea Ewing neared college graduation in 2012, they became consumed by the question: What is gender? This obsession sparked a quest in which they eagerly approached both friends and strangers in their quiet Midwest town for interviews to turn into comics. A decade later, this project exploded into a sweeping portrait of the intricacies of gender expression with interviewees from all over the country. Questions such as “How do you Identify” produced fiercely honest stories of dealing with adolescence, taking hormones, changing pronouns—and how these experiences can differ, often drastically, depending on culture, race, and religion. Amidst beautifully rendered scenes emerges Ewing’s own story of growing up in rural Kentucky, grappling with their identity as a teenager, and ultimately finding themself through art—and by creating something this very fine. Tender and wise, inclusive and inviting, Fine is an indispensable account for anyone eager to define gender in their own terms.

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This was stunning. I loved literally everything about this. The key things for me that made this stand out other than the fact that its graphic nonfiction (not a new concept, I know) was the detailed introduction and how the author took care to discusss how this is as validating as it can be for the time we currently live in.

The biggest thing though is how the story was drawn and pieced together. Sometimes I find graphic novels of any kind lack in giving me that "mind movie" ordinary print novels do. I find that sometimes the images impair my mind from seeing the flow of the story. THIS though. *chefs kiss*, the scenes were vividly displayed and wow what an amazing reading experience.

To me the reason this resonates so strongly is because of how there seems to be this polarizing view of sex, gender and identity right now. I think society + media (western) has come to this place where people thing gender is strickly two dimensional and based off sex, or is so dramatically fluid and undefinable.

More often than not I only see opinions around gender idiology as something like "you can or cannot be this" or "it doesnt make sense to me" when a persons views don't match perfectly with someone elses. But through the conversations and questions presented in this novel, it really paints a portrait of what and how diverse we as individuals see sex/gender. Which I love because it shows how personal and variable this brand of a persons individual identity is.

This is for sure something I want to try and get for my library and myself. I'm so excited to see the final copy.

Thank you Netgalley for access to the ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Ugh, I loved it so much.

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This piece of graphic nonfiction feels like the Vagina Monologues of gender identity and experience. Author/illustrator Rhea Ewing sets off on a mission to understand gender by interviewing people of all identities and expressions with a focus on trans-identified individuals. Rhea thought they would find answers, and they did -just not the ones they were looking for. The illustrated interviews and author reflections are split into sections that relate to the topic being discussed - from healthcare to surgery to pronouns to family relationships to acceptance to rejection to finding community - Fine: A Comic About Gender has it all.

Fine: A Comic About Gender is a dense read. It will expand any reader's perspective, which means it can't be consumed in a single setting. I truly think this piece of graphic nonfiction could be a pivotal turning point in how everyone thinks and talks about gender. I would love to see it adapted for the stage.

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This is one of those books that I want to give all the stars to and buy copies of for everyone I know (and a lot of people I don't know). This book doesn't have any answers, but it DOES have insight. That's important, because I don't think there's any one correct answer for anyone. The more people we hear from, though, the more stories we take the time to listen to, the more educated and informed we become, and who knows how far you can go with an educated and informed populace?

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I have been waiting for a book like Fine for a long time. This excellent nonfiction graphic comic/memoir is an incredible resource for conversations about gender, in all its intersections with race, age, and other identities. This reminds me of "Good Talk" in the ways in which it illustrates the conversations that are happening between Rhea, as they interview people to ask how they identify, reflect on concepts such as "feminine" and "masculine," and speak to their experiences based on gender identity, expression, sexuality, etc. It also reminds me of "The Undocumented Americans" in the way that Rhea as an interviewer is imbedded in the community that they interview -- some of the interviewees have had similar experiences of questioning and gender dysphoria, and these conversations come amidst a struggle for Rhea understand their own identity at the same time.

Both of those books are two of my favorites that have come out in the last few years, and are some of the books that I most frequently recommend to folks that are looking for antiracist learning material. While Rhea is a white person, they do interview a diverse set of folks that live in the Midwest, and the way in which gender identity impacts basic lived experiences from getting housing to using a public restroom to finding community - is deeply moving and relevant for frontline, social services work. I will absolutely be buying copies of this to share in our reading group at work. There is so much nuance in this graphic novel, with stories that directly conflict, and with language that shifts between different users both in talking about their communities and themselves, and while it's in a specific geographic area, you get a diverse set of stories that shows how boring the binary is and how much larger our understanding of gender could be (if we need that at all!). Complex, great for starting a conversation, and sure to be a hit when it comes out.

Thanks to NetGalley for an early review copy, all opinions are my own.

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A well-constructed and expressive dive into the diversity of experiences surrounding gender identity, told in a strong voice that acknowledges the author's subjectivity while centering those interviewed.

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This is going to become a text we can share with the world. I just know it. This comic explores gender and its many facets and influences. Rhea has really done something here. This book will inform not only those outside the community, but also those inside it who may not understand some of the other feelings and identities. Bravo!!

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"This book is dedicated to everyone who wonders if they are enough. You are enough."

This is amazing, phenomenal, fantastic, great, wonderful, and so many other words. This entire book was a heart punch. It was also a memoir, a journey, a conversation, and a damn good graphic novel. It touches on so many topics that it makes it hard to list them all but I'm going to try: masculinity, femininity, race, culture, gender, identity, language, privilege, expression, healthcare, housing and so much more.

I believe everyone should read and discuss this book. It's such an amazing look into the complexities of gender. Definitely do yourself a service and pick this book up when it comes out. You won't be disappointed.

*Note: I am a white non-binary queer individual

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In a search for the author's own identity and understanding around, "What is gender?" they interview 56 different participants discussing everything that encompasses one's experiences surrounding gender.

This is an important read. Part summer project, part research and part memoir, I could not fault it. It is poignant, eye-opening and the illustrations are just amazing. It emphasises that everyone's relationship and experience around gender is different and unique. This book also highlights how factors such as race, religion, support (or lack thereof) or upbringing can affect this.

Everyone who is human can take something valuable away from this book, and this will definitely be an asset in any library.

An ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review..

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Never before have I felt so seen in a book, and I've done a lot of reading over the years. Ewing provides readers with a variety of interview experiences, trying to understand and break down gender and our assumptions of it. Definitely a book to keep on hand for anyone questioning their gender or wanting to learn more about it.

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