Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0-22 by Mari Naomi

I first heard about Mari Naomi through Sister Spit, a group of  feminist and queer writers lead by Michelle Tea who travel and read their work.  I love graphic novels so I was excited that Sister Spit had chosen to feature Mari Naomi, a bay area comic book artist.  Kiss and Tell is Mari Naomi’s first graphic novel and is also one of the most interesting graphic novels I’ve read in a while.  I would highly recommend it to any who are fans of Michelle Tea. 

The books content is pretty much described in the title and is a catalogue of all Mari’s romantic and sexual encounters between ages 5 and  22.  She includes stories of silly childhood infatuation along the lines of “if you show me yours I’ll show you mine.”  However, the book later becomes more serious as she illustrates the thrill, heartache, and experimentation of her later relationships.  While the events in the book may be shocking to some, she exposes her encounters  in a very honest and matter of fact fashion.  This is something I appreciated, because it just notes her encounters for what they are, without judgment. The book contains a very intimate portrayal of Mari’s experiences which include losing her virginity, having an abortion, her first love being sent to jail, and also follows her experimentation with women and with open relationships.

Although many will not have quite the experience that Mari had as a teenager, I think the book is easily relatable because of  its themes of first love, first lust, and first major heartache.  Its descriptions of what it is like to be young are also right on point with the recklessness, thrill and naivety of being young and feeling bulletproof.

Raised by traditional Japanese American parents, Mari rebels and as a teen even runs away from home.  She quits high school and moves in with her boyfriend until he is sent to jail.  She experiments with drugs and drinks and questions her identity.  One thing I appreciated about the book is her feminist stance on her sexuality.  She doesn’t seem to regret or feel guilt about her many sexual encounters and sex is a topic in the book that Mari is empowered by and chooses.  Some of her experiences are merely hook ups or make outs but the two main stories in the graphic novel tackle her experiences with falling in love.

The only thing that left me dissatisfied about this graphic novel was its ending.  She breaks up with her long-term, live in relationship and moves away.  At the end is a drawing of her with descriptions of what she has become, including married and monogamous.  I would be interested to see what she learned and what happened between where the graphic novel leaves off and her life at present.  Luckily though, I believe she is working on a second book that may shed some insight.