a11 – Book review: ABO Comix Vol. 3 “A Queer prisoner’s anthology”

Review by rachelle hughes

“This book makes my heart feel like its filling the whole Long Haul!” -Slingshot member

Let’s start with the cover. A gnarled tree rises up from the ground, its bright rainbow trunk eventually melting into the cold indigo of a harsh landscape muddled with stacked boulders and barbed wire–a potent symbol of queer survival in a world set out to shackle, suppress, and silence our very existence.

VOL. 3 contains 27 comics from 26 different incarcerated queer artists across the country, and each comic offers a unique glimpse into the life of the artist within their respective institution. The prison conditions, inmates, and sentencing laws may change from comic to comic, city to city, and state to state; the only constants are the many levels of oppression incarcerated (queer) people face on a daily basis within the U.S. prison system and the tremendous amount of courage and love these artists demonstrate.

A common theme in this anthology is throwing love and mutual aid in the face of the hate and divisiveness that is taught by society and reinforced by prison walls. For example, in “Mami Mamasita…” by Kinoko, a rampaging drama queen-monster is brought back to her senses by super-women sharing their sweetness, love, and inner light with her. In “In the Hen House!” by Joanlisa Featherston, a group of inmates provide each other with hope and emotional support. In “Love Overcomes Bullying”, Tony Gentry shows us that the power of love and queer self-care can overpower adversity. Don’t get it wrong however; this anthology is also crammed with pain, suffering, and anger, but the juxtaposition of these themes is visceral and draws the reader deep into the characters’ lives. Expect to shed a tear or two over this anthology.

As written in the book, “ABO is a collective of creators and activists who work to amplify the voices of LGBTQ prisoners through art. The profits [they] generate go back to incarcerated artists, especially those with little to no resources. ABO believes our interpersonal and societal issues can be solved without locking people in cages.” (ABO Comix).

To learn more about the cool work this Bay Area radical publishing collective does and how to support the mission, visit abocomix.com