Book Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Photos and Stories are a Legacy

Book Review: Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal

Favorite Quote: It’s almost impossible to separate words from the images in a graphic novel, so instead, here is one of my favorite panels:

Woman world scan-1

Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal is a graphic novel that imagines what our world might look like if men disappeared. The premise is that for some unknown reason, the birthrate of male babies starts to plummet. Coupled with some extreme natural disasters, humanity drastically changes. In a few generations, there are no men left.

I went into this graphic novel thinking it would be full of dark commentary on the state of the world. I thought it would explore things like politics, war, and the structures of society and how these would be influenced by the absence of men.

In part, it does delve into these topics.

Woman worldBut mostly, Woman World is an exploration of how women communicate. Without men to worry about, conversations open up. As most of the women in the book have never interacted with men, they are oblivious to how funny and apt their observations are. The book also explores relationships—romantic, friendly, family-based, society-based. My favorite is the relationship between an older woman, who is looked at as a source of wisdom because she remembers the world with men in it, and her young granddaughter Emiko. It is a sweet, funny, and tender relationship that made me sniff several times. Also, many of our anxieties vanish—but many of them remain, except since they are stripped of their usual context (in relation to men), they seem almost pointless. 

One of the characters in the story, Gaia, is the leader of the village, and she is always naked. At first this is a little bit startling, but as the story progresses her nakedness started to make me think about my own body and my relationship with clothes. In the absence of a sexual binary, the meaning of the female body shifted. It wasn't about being sexy or attractive or appealing; instead Gaia's body becomes a manifestation, an outward expression, of who she is. In our culture, we make our identity partly on what we wear. What would it feel like if our bodies themselves could be the basis of our identity? Our scars, stretch marks, moles, and other "imperfections" could be stories about our past that others could know about us. This point is reinforced by another character, the doctor who is sent from the capitol. She wears her doctor coat but no shirt underneath it, so you can see the scars from a mastectomy. This part of her story is never told in actual words, but it influences the people around her simply because the scars are visible.

I’m generally unable to read graphic novels very easily (and manga is almost impossible for me), as drawing the story from the images is hard for my brain to do. (I feel a deep sense of shame for this, but it is also just how my brain works. I connect it with my dislike of picture-only picture books for kids. I never enjoyed “reading” those with my kids, and I think it’s for the same reason.) This was a great one for a reader like me to read, because while there is an underlying story that weaves through the whole text, each two-page panel can also stand on its own.

This book made me laugh, cry, nod, and think. I am so glad I read it!



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