THE THIRD PERSON

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Closeted at 13, the author struggled with her gender identity; years later, she encountered several social and psychological roadblocks early on in her transition. She attempted to remedy them with Toby, a gender therapist who could approve her for hormonal treatments, but the road was arduous and studded with hazards. The author and illustrator chronicles her personal story via flashbacks, detailing schoolyard bullying and physical abuse at the hands of her grandfather, extreme trauma that manifested in dissociative identity disorder. In an effort to cope with the psychological pain of her past, Grove embodied several “alter” identities that were stronger and more resilient. Two examples were Ed, a male-identifying persona, and Katina, a sunny, uninhibited “party girl.” Katina was the opposite of timid Emma and emerged as the more dominant personality during sessions with the shortsighted Toby, who harshly considered Katina as the “third person in the room who isn’t here.” The majority of the narrative takes place in Grove’s sessions with Toby, who condescendingly questioned the authenticity of her ordeal, her transgender identity, and her separate personalities. Worse, he weaponized her past traumas against her. As the author continued to work to achieve clarity, a new, empathetic therapist ushered her forward. Readers will be engrossed by this candid tale of intimate transition, bravery, and a fierce determination to confront demons in order to embrace the true self. Creatively conceived, Grove’s use of cartoons to tell her story is a clever choice. At nearly 900 pages, the book is a surprisingly brisk reading experience rendered effectively through the minimalist illustrations and powerful dialogue exchanges. Grove’s artistry also embellishes the journey with palpable character movement and facial expressions and mood representation. While untangling the complexities and often sobering dynamics of vulnerability and identity, Grove’s impressive comic journal illuminates, inspires, and educates.

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