Queer: A Graphic History By Meg-John Barker & Illustrated By Julia Scheele: A Book Review


DSC_0004 (2).JPGThis an academic look at the history of ‘queer theory’ and queer thought throughout history – something that I was introduced whilst studying for my Media A-Level. This book explores identity politics and gender roles, as well as several other topics such as exclusion and privilege. It also explains  how we came to view  sex, gender, and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these binary ideas are challenged by theories such as Judith Butler’s ‘Gender Trouble’ (1990). 

Though I will say that though the illustrations were enjoyable and added some much-needed visuals to the book (much like Ash Hardell did for their book), I did find this book a bit boring to read – but don’t get me wrong, I did appreciate the information this book holds, and it is nice to go more in-depth with a theory that I always liked – but damn, this book felt like a chore to get through. Maybe it’s because I haven’t studied in a while, and I have gotten out of the habit, but I did find myself getting bored in places.  

That’s not to say I didn’t learn quite a bit from this book (e.g. I wasn’t aware of critical sexology), and I do appreciate it being written – I just aware that it could have been written better. This is because, for a graphic novel, it didn’t exactly feel like one – I was kind of expecting it to be told in a more comic book-like way, rather than like a standard textbook with illustrations with no colors. That didn’t mean I put the book down completely though, it simply meant that it took me longer to read. 

It also would have been nice to get some personal accounts or at least some discussions about the word queer and its connotations. I for one personally don’t mind the word queer, and though it’s not a word I identify with, it’s not something I find offensive (providing your part of the LGBTQ+ community and I know and trust you of course). So it would have been nice to see some differing opinions/thoughts on the word ‘queer’ and/or queer theory, Ash Hardell did in their book. This was a nice added touch because it added a personal touch to the book, and is the biggest reason why I like the book. 

Furthermore, I would have liked to see more discussions about the word queer (or maybe labels in general?) There is also no discussion of these words with open arms because it’s always interesting to have different perspectives. A solution to this would be to have a few questions about what you think about the word ‘queer’, and what you feel about certain topics within a chapter. 

In addition, I would like to see a quiz/check-up page in each chapter. This would have made the book easier to understand, especially if you are just starting out with queer theory. Furthermore, and speaking of illustrations, I did appreciate the fact that illustrations were in the book – it would have been a lot more dull if it didn’t have any. But I’m going to compare it to Ash again – the illustrations have no color. What I mean by this is that what I liked so much about Hardells book is the fact that each page/chapter had illustrated pictures with colours, as well as having a photograph. 

I also had problems with specific pages within the book – for example, on page 83, which talks about disrupting binary/sexuality/ gender norms, there are three celebrities pictures (Miley Cyrus, Ruby Rose and Kristen Stewart). I have nothing against these specific celebrities, but I believe that all of these women do identify as cisgender women (but please politely correct / inform me if I’m wrong). But there are no trans / nonbinary people involved – and non-binary people are mentioned until page 160+. I have a problem with this because it doesn’t allow for nonbinary individuals, for example,  to talk about how they may disrupt the gender binary. 

Overall, I felt as though the book was too broad, and this could have been solved by possibly making it a series of books. But I did learn a lot from this book, but it was a chore to get through. 








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