How To Be Ace by Rebecca Burgess

How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve wanted to read How To Be Ace by Rebecca Burgess ever since I heard about it. I’m always excited by the books that put something different or under-represented into the world, and books featuring asexuality are something I can count on single fingers (if that…). It seems obvious but if we don’t write and produce and make these books that talk about these ways of being and knowing, then the worlds we represent are narrow and partial and half-formed things. And that’s something I’ll never be comfortable in signing up for.

How To Be Ace is a delight. It’s a warm and kind autobiographical graphic memoir that follows Rebecca as they grows up. They’re surrounded by a world that’s obsessed with sex and the heteronormative, and all the expectations that that discourse pushes onto people, before they comes to realise their identity as asexual and find a comfort and pride in that.

Burgess’ art work is a delight, it’s full of a kind of lively softness (stay with me, I know that sounds odd!) where loose, gentle lines sit alongside rich washes of colour. The overall effect is one of rich intimacy, where the comic feels familiar and friendly and immediate.

The book is broken up into chapters, opening with “How To Pretend To Be Something You’re Not” and finishing with “How To Be Ace”. I am very fond of ‘How To Be…‘ titles, so I appreciated this on that level, but I also appreciate the technicalities at work here. Burgess uses the end of several chapters to offer small primers around the topic, ranging from the difference between sexual and romantic attraction to things people say to them when they discover they are asexual.

I loved this comic a lot. I read a lot about gender and identity and sexuality and I’m increasingly convinced of the value of seeking texts from people who know these experiences from lived, real-world experience. I learn a lot from their voices and Burgess is no exception. They deliver a thoughtful and gentle and honest memoir here and I’m very glad that the publishers went for it. I would recommend this entirely. There is a lot of hard fought for life and love and heart here and honestly, I think it’s pretty special.

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