Note: Every once in a while I’ll be sharing a title that is still in issues/not yet collected into a book. Although some teachers may not want to use single issues in class, these titles are still great for students to read; “I’ve Got Issues”
Full disclosure: When I was growing up, I was obsessed with all things related to summer camp. I loved Meatballs, and Salute Your Shorts (and sadly, even Ernest Goes to Camp). I lived for s’mores and spooky stories told around a campfire. The thing is…I’ve never been to camp in my life. I grew up in Chicago, and my family had very little money. The closest I came to camp was the free day camp at the local park (here, “day camp” is code for run around in the sun until you get tired and dehydrated). So when I saw the cover of Lumberjanes I was already on board.
Then I open the book and I see this…
Hooked. HOOKED, I SAY.
In a recent interview with Comics Alliance the creators describe the book as “Baby Sitters Club meets Buffy the Vampire slayer and Scooby Doo goes to camp.” Mix in a dash of Spice Girls, Tegan and Sara, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and you’ve got the basic DNA for what makes Lumberjanes great. It’s supernatural, mystery and adventure all wrapped in a ready-for-Cartoon-Network package. I can’t say enough how much I love this book.
Now here’s the hard part. I’ve written, and re-written this section in my head dozens of times, and no matter what comes out I still won’t be happy with it, but I don’t know what else to say. Is this book a work of feminism? It’s such a great book, should we even care? I have a ton of these kinds of questions running through my head, but I just want to enjoy this book and have fun with these characters. Yes, this book features an entirely female cast (although I’m not sure of the gender of the animals). Yes, this book wears it’s feminism as a badge of honor (and it’s about time). But what I struggle with here is the very idea that I even have to notice this kind of stuff. This is through no fault of creators Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and Brooke Allen. The work they are doing is full of fun and adventure, and the characters are more than just their gender. But there goes my hang up again: who am I to say whether it matters that the main characters are girls? Does it matter? I say yes.
I say yes it matters, BECAUSE it still matters. We still have to take notice when a work of art centers on a group of young women who are each fully realized, round characters because it is such a rare thing to encounter. We still have to take notice that my immediate reaction after reading this is “I can’t wait to share this with my female students” because female writers and artists and characters are still too few and far between. We still have to take notice that “feminist” isn’t a dirty word, and it’s ok to have role models from across all spectrums. We still have to take notice that #yesallwomen and Dr. Maya Angelou’s death coincided, and that is far too much loss for me to deal with and I just want to live in a world where the panel below is a real and true thing.
More than anything, though, I want people to read this book for what it is, AND what it stands for, and then pass it along because we need more of this.