London Free Press reviews ON LOVING WOMEN

“Amusing illustrations with a nostalgic touch ” / London Free Press / Dan Brown / May 30, 2014

I’d love to get a young lesbian’s take on Diane Obomsawin’s On Loving Women.

Composed of several vignettes, this book by the NFB filmmaker is dripping with nostalgia. Each evocative story is told from the point of view of a different woman, but they all seem to be united in a yearning for a distant past — no matter how conservative and unaccepting the social climate was.

So the logical question for me is, who is the target audience? If this book is aimed at young women struggling with questions of sexual identity today, why not describe more recent coming-out tales?

The author could have talked to teens or twentysomethings.

Instead, what we get are time capsules.

Maybe I’m naive, but I’d like to think things are a lot different in the year 2014 for lesbians and everyone else.

Then again, maybe what she set out to do is create an unapologetic exercise in celebrating the past, which is not a bad thing.

This may be why all of the unpleasantness of growing up gay in decades past — the unhappiness, the betrayals, the humiliations — seem to slide away, leavened with a sense of humour from the point of view of being older and wiser.

Sexual concerns aside, what really struck me about this slender volume is the style of the illustrations.

Characters here are visualized as animals such as dogs, horses and pigs. The result is drawings that appear to draw heavily on Matt Groenig’s pre-Simpsons work for his Life in Hell alternative-newspaper strip.

If you find Bongo, Binky and Sheba visually amusing (as I do), then On Loving Women will be a delight for your eyes.

Even better, there are other sly nods in the direction of comics history.

In the first short piece, Mathilde’s Story, the narrator reveals that a certain superheroine has always stirred her soul: “The women who turn me on the most always look like Wonder Woman,” she observes.

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