Nicole Georges grew up believing her father was dead. The youngest daughter of a woman who seemed to shuffle men faster than cards at a blackjack table, Nicole struggled with her mother’s whims as well as her changing identity. After her older sister comes out, it seems all the more important for Nicole to cling tightly to her own secret — and it’s slipped that her vanishing dad might not have disappeared in the way she thought. A fateful call to Dr. Laura Schlessinger realigns Nicole’s thinking — maybe just in time to confront her complicated past.
It’s been so long since I picked up a graphic novel. The ones I’ve enjoyed in the past — like Craig Thompson’s Blankets — blew me away . . . so I guess it’d be fair to say I had high expectations of Nicole Georges’ memoir-in-illustrations. Described as “part coming-of-age and part coming-out story,” Calling Dr. Laura was an interesting work.
You know, I have a ton of respect for Georges. She grows up in a home full of secrets and half-truths, and I think my favorite portions of the book were the moments she explores her childhood. As an artist, Georges’ style is fun and retro (check it out). I’m certainly no expert on these matters — art is a fuzzy area I studied one semester in college, like, eight years ago — but I appreciated her illustrations and the way she characterized her young self. As she suffers heartbreak and finds solace in life with her dogs in Portland, Ore., it’s impossible not to feel the confusion and hurt stemming from a break-up.
But as a narrative? Calling Dr. Laura didn’t captivate me. The central mystery in Georges’ work is, of course, that of the missing father. Who is he? Where is he? Why did he walk out on the family? Is he still alive? And I get that, through the course of the memoir, we’re led to understand why Georges’ dad is of less importance than, say, her mother: the person who, for better or worse, was there through it all. But I couldn’t help feeling unsatisfied. By the book’s close, I knew I should feel something — especially after the bombshell epilogue. But though heartbreaking, I didn’t feel as emotionally connected to Georges as I wish I had.
Still, Georges’ story will appeal to fans of graphic memoirs and GLBT-themed stories. Though Georges’ orientation is not the story’s focus, it’s an important part of how she relates to her family — and why she doesn’t just confront her mom about the past. It seems crazy that a lie so big would stretch between a group for so long, but Georges does a remarkable job of probing her family’s history while still leaving a little mystery intact. I enjoyed it and wouldn’t hesitate to read more of her story later on.
3.5 out of 5!