When I Came Out tells the story of Louise, a middle-aged woman who, as the title suggests, comes out. The book navigates her early life including her first crush, her experiences with societal expectations, self-discovery later in life, her first lesbian experiences, and the overall process of coming out to herself and to the people who are close to her.
The work draws on Anne Mette Kærulf Lorentzen’s own experiences and shares part of her inner-world through both the art and story. Firstly, through the use of narration from diary entries which provides a personal tone. The art also emphasises this, depicting characters as various animals which gives the story a playful visual language, alongside the pink, green, black and white colour scheme which provides an almost fairytale-like atmosphere.
The narrative, despite skipping around in time (especially at the beginning) is relatively straightforward, due in part to the overarching structure with diary entries but also as a result of dating particular moments, placing them in certain time frames.
One of the big themes is the process in gaining confidence in your sexuality. Louise lacks self-assurance when she is younger, implied to be the result of societal expectations and prejudices. The depiction of her as a rabbit highlights this shyness. Her changes in in appearance through fashion create the image of her growth in confidence. Lorentzen gets the character’s voice across really well in her character design. Each character has a unique feel about them: from the experienced lesbian who Louise has a one-night stand with, to Louise’s friend from childhood Jane. Jane for example, is shown as a bear. Compared to Louise her design omits stability, linking with her role in Louise’s life. Louise’s friends play a key role in the process of helping her gain self-confidence in order to come out.
Throughout the book Louise and her husband Peter are attending marriage counselling – due to a lack of sexual interest on Louise’s part, which is leaving Peter dissatisfied. As Louise discovers more about her sexuality the sessions become more frustrated, ending with Louise and Peter’s divorce. The sessions are an interesting way of showing the progress over this period of Louise’s life.
The book ends in an open-ended way, after Louise’s life has changed, giving the impression that the act of coming out is not the end of her story and giving the characters life beyond the page.
When I Came Out is feels like a personal exploration of the process of coming out later in life. It shows how coming out is both internal and external – on a personal level with yourself and with the people you are close with. Often these are interconnected.
Anne Mette Kærulf Lorentzen (W/A) • SelfMadeHero, £14.99
Review by Holly Raidl