Sharon Lee De La Cruz’s conversational narratorial style immediately welcomes the reader into her graphic memoir I’m a Wild Seed, an examination of her identity as a queer BIPOC published by Street Noise Books. Taking as the foundation for her visual essay the belief that only when “Black trans women are safe” can she truly be free, De La Cruz begins her exploration of both self and the environment that shapes it, and how she deconstructed the oppressive factors that had defined her and led to her late understanding of her queerness.
Broken down into a number of shorter chapters dealing with key moments in this journey, I’m a Wild Seed is illustrated with a sparky and animated style. Using a series of metaphors and visual analogies to make key points, De La Cruz’s cartooning is not overly sophisticated but that, in turn, is exactly why it has such a relatable and communicative energy. That is something that is particularly noticeable in terms of visual characterisation where so much is conveyed emotionally in expression or through body language.
De La Cruz takes us back initially to her childhood (the chapter title ‘Xena’ may give the reader an inkling of the experiences depicted therein) and how her queerness was repressed from an early age by the pressures to conform to binary gender constructs. There are sidesteps into queer history and an examination of the concept of safe spaces and what they mean to the individual before De La Cruz reflects on race and intersectionality, and the navigation of multiple marginalised identities.
What De La Cruz communicates so well here is how she essentially had to deconstruct and then reconstruct her own identity; to decolonise her gender and sexuality. While often witty in delivery I’m a Wild Seed is also a very sobering read – her struggles with “coming into her Blackness”, and the internal subjugation of her queerness and the consequences that followed for example. Nevertheless, we leave the book feeling grateful that ahe has let us into her world and her experiences, and for the insights she has left us to ruminate on. That a key chapter is titled simply ‘Uneventful Coming Out Story’ is indicative of how open and candid a graphic memoir this is.
I’m a Wild Seed is yet another worthy addition to the Street Noise Books catalogue not just for those who will see echoes of their own lives in De La Cruz’s story but also for those of us who need to engage with the lived experiences of others to challenge our own unconscious acceptance of oppressive societal structures and examine our own privilege. It’s also a vibrantly expressive debut work from a creative voice we can only look forward to hearing much more from in the near future.
Sharon Lee De La Cruz (W/A) • Street Noise Books
Review by Andy Oliver