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EmiTown: A Sketch Diary – Review

By Emi Lenox

This sketch diary might be the one of the best graphic memoirs I’ve read in some time. Compiling over a year from her online journal at Emitown.com, Emi Lenox shares her everyday experiences of a struggling artist working not-so-thrilling jobs and slowly getting her name out there. And she does with an army of cats.

What’s truly captivating about Emitown is that Lenox’s life is so easy to identify with, but she tells and sketches in such a way that the absurdity of our everyday lives shines through. Of course there’s an army of cats to convey emotion, because those are her inner thoughts. And when things are rough or confusing, she takes the mantle of Ocean Girl (who can’t swim). Slowly, as her metaphors and hidden messages become more apparent, Lenox becomes much more real in her autobiography than even some of the big names out there. While reading EmiTown, I couldn’t help compare it to Fun Home, even though there aren’t many similarities between the two. I could not relate to Fun Home at all. I suppose as a straight male who grew up in heavy metropolitan areas or suburbs, I had a hard time empathizing with a gay female coming to terms with her sexuality and growing up in a very small town. I expected to have a similar feeling when I started reading EmiTown. I just thought it’d be about some American girl and I’d be lost half the time trying to figure out what she’s crying about. Instead—and I am very different from Lenox—I still felt that connection authors strive for when writing an autobiography. Money woes and breakfast burritos truly won my heart early in the book. Do I stop by pet stores and look longingly into the window at a sad little cat with a sign stating that its owner had just died? No. But when I see Emi do it, I understand her reaction. I’m a very average guy, but Emi is… well, Emi is very girly. Still, it didn’t take long to identify with her.

But, since she is a very girly girl, I have one thing to say to every guy out there who reads comics and graphic novels but have girlfriends who just don’t get it or are even a little embarrassed by it. Get her this book. This is a perfect bridge into your world. Even if she doesn’t start reading your back issues of Captain America or Superman, she’ll at least have some understanding of why you love the genre and what comics/graphic novels are besides superheroes and bright colors. If you have a girlfriend who melts every time she sees a kitten, or hates her job, or has that one female friend you fear she might run off with one day, she will love EmiTown. On that last note, seeing Emi and her friend Jamestown interact helped me understand a bit more about my girl and her friend. Hear that—EmiTown will help you understand the most mind-boggling creature on Earth after the duckbilled platypus.

The only drawback to this book is its length. At 400 pages, it’s just a bit too long. Now, it might read much differently when it comes out (all of you pick this book up right now!), but since I only had a pdf, it made the experience a little more tiresome. A 400 page pdf does not scroll very well, so the pacing of the work was hard to judge. Sometimes it felt like I was breezing through it only to find out I only ready 10 pages. But that’s really not much of a complaint. It’s such a wonderful autobiography that having a little more can’t hurt it, it’ll just take a little longer to read.

Grade: A-

-Roman Colombo

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