Finally, a new comic about lesbian love

We spoke to Montreal-based cartoonist and animator Diane Obomsawin about her latest book On Loving Women.

On Loving Women

Every coming out story is different. In On Loving Women, Diane Obomsawin explores true and intimate moments of not only coming out, but first love and sexual identity.

Each chapter of the book recounts a different woman’s discovery of her attraction to women and the circumstances and struggles that accompany that discovery. Through her simple storytelling and minimal line work, Obomsawin tackles these intimate and private moments with aplomb, allowing the stories themselves to shine through.

I had a chat with Obomsawin earlier this week about the book and how she collected these personal stories.

Diane Obomsawin. Photo by Rehab Nazal
Diane Obomsawin. Photo by Rehab Nazal

Kayla Marie Hillier: Why did you decide to write On Loving Women?
Diane Obomsawin: One day I was reading a Michel Tremblay book, I think it was Chroniques du Plateau Mont-Royal. In this book he explains that he just realized suddenly one day that he always identified himself with the woman when he saw a couple kissing. At the movies or on the front page of a magazine or whatever, he would take the place of the woman. And that made him suddenly realize his attraction to men. So I began to think for myself where it came from before the first love, even unconsciously, the very beginning of the desire. That was my question to my friends also, I wanted to know more about all the stories, so I asked my friends and friends of my friends. I would tell my little story of Michel Tremblay and then ask them to think way back in their memory to their first attraction to women. And then it came naturally with the first love and sometimes with the first time.

KMH: Did you include all of the stories that you were told?
DO: I used every story. Every story was very complementary to the others. I didn’t want to direct them except for the very first memories. So for Marie it was more the family context and the difficulties with them. Then with Maxime, for example, it was the societal context, the difficulty that they had being all alone with no reference at the time. I also interviewed women from different ages to have different points of view. From the difficulties of being a lesbian in the early ‘70s, when it was criminal to be gay, to someone in the country or from the city. So different ages were important to me. Unfortunately I didn’t interview anyone that was very young — if I do another, I will. I do cover 30–70.

On Loving Women
On Loving Women

KMH: Were you surprised by any of the stories that you heard or did you have a pretty good idea from the start what to expect?
DO: I didn’t expect them to be so touching. I didn’t expect that it would come with pain; it’s not just funny. The first woman that I interviewed, she liked to talk and we spent two hours and after she was depressed because it comes with all kinds of sad memories and difficulties. That surprised me. Another friend was also a little sad after the interview, so after those two experiences I decided not to interview for a long time. I didn’t want them to be sad afterwards. I asked them to talk for a maximum of 15 or 20 minutes. They gave me a lot to work with even in that short period of time. The woman who talked for two hours, I could do a whole comic just with her.

KMH: How have your friends reacted to the comic and the portrayal of their stories?
DO: That’s the best part. They’ve thanked me and they all really love it. They say that they recognize themselves and that I captured the reality of their lives. That really touches me the most. They gave me a lot, so I can give them back something.

KMH: Do you think you’ll make a sequel as there are so many stories that you could still tell?
DO: I’d love to. I would love to go deeper. I don’t know how, but it’s a never-ending book, this kind of storytelling. It would be great to do more stories.

KMH: What are you currently working on?
DO: Now I’m doing an animated film with four of the stories, with completely different graphics. I will do something more experimental visually but with the same soul and the same story. I don’t want to lose the little sadness — sadness with joy. ■

On Loving Women launches at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly tonight, Thursday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m. The evening will include a presentation on the book and a signing.


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