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Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame

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An intimate, clever, and ultimately gut-wrenching graphic memoir about the daily decision women must make between being sexualized or being invisible In Commute, we follow author and illustrator Erin Williams on her daily commute to and from work, punctuated by recollections of sexual encounters as well as memories of her battle with alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. As An intimate, clever, and ultimately gut-wrenching graphic memoir about the daily decision women must make between being sexualized or being invisible In Commute, we follow author and illustrator Erin Williams on her daily commute to and from work, punctuated by recollections of sexual encounters as well as memories of her battle with alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. As she moves through the world navigating banal, familiar, and sometimes uncomfortable interactions with the familiar-faced strangers she sees daily, Williams weaves together a riveting collection of flashbacks. Her recollections highlight the indefinable moments when lines are crossed and a woman must ask herself if the only way to avoid being objectified is to simply cease to draw any attention to her physical being. She delves into the gray space that lives between consent and assault and tenderly explores the complexity of the shame, guilt, vulnerability, and responsibility attached to both.


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An intimate, clever, and ultimately gut-wrenching graphic memoir about the daily decision women must make between being sexualized or being invisible In Commute, we follow author and illustrator Erin Williams on her daily commute to and from work, punctuated by recollections of sexual encounters as well as memories of her battle with alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. As An intimate, clever, and ultimately gut-wrenching graphic memoir about the daily decision women must make between being sexualized or being invisible In Commute, we follow author and illustrator Erin Williams on her daily commute to and from work, punctuated by recollections of sexual encounters as well as memories of her battle with alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. As she moves through the world navigating banal, familiar, and sometimes uncomfortable interactions with the familiar-faced strangers she sees daily, Williams weaves together a riveting collection of flashbacks. Her recollections highlight the indefinable moments when lines are crossed and a woman must ask herself if the only way to avoid being objectified is to simply cease to draw any attention to her physical being. She delves into the gray space that lives between consent and assault and tenderly explores the complexity of the shame, guilt, vulnerability, and responsibility attached to both.

30 review for Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame

  1. 5 out of 5

    Anniek

    I received an eARC of this book through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. Read this for a fatphobic White Feminist take on the male gaze. Let's start with a positive: I quite enjoyed the art work in this graphic novel. It's simple and mostly done in sketch lines, and I loved the layout, with lots of empty space. I really didnt' like this novel though. The first quarter of the book seems to be focused on the main character getting ready for work in the morning, and this is described in so I received an eARC of this book through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. Read this for a fatphobic White Feminist take on the male gaze. Let's start with a positive: I quite enjoyed the art work in this graphic novel. It's simple and mostly done in sketch lines, and I loved the layout, with lots of empty space. I really didnt' like this novel though. The first quarter of the book seems to be focused on the main character getting ready for work in the morning, and this is described in so much detail that I quickly lost interest. I really don't need to read about someone's make-up routine or what she does and doesn't like to drink, yet a full page was centered around either of those things. The same goes for a full page centering her peeing dog (?!). This all just seemed irrelevant and completely uninteresting to me, and it had me impatient for the book to actually start. Don't get me wrong: I fully understand this as an attempt to provide insight in the smaller and bigger types of oppression women face in their day to day life. The detailed descriptions of her own life seem to be a way for the author to humanize herself to the reader. I just didn't think this had the intended effect. I mainly just disagree with some of the views the author shares. For instance, she says that women in public are either seen as desirable (and as such, are visible), which comes with a constant vage sense of threat. This is a good point. But she also says the other side of that medal, so to speak, is to be seen as undesirable and invisible, and this causes loneliness. I don't agree with this at all. Of course everyone has a different experience, and I understand the point the author is trying to make, but I think she missed the main issue with this. It's not undesirability in itself that's harmful because god forbid not being noticed by strangers will make you feel lonely. It's people thinking women's right to be respected is tied to how desirable the world finds them. I think what I mostly didn't appreciate was the sort of internalized misogyny/fatphobia/whatever the fuck it was, that made the author constantly emphasize how important it is to her to feel desirable, and making several assumptions about every other woman also wanting to feel desirable (which just felt really aphobic to me, because no thanks, desire feels so gross to me). She even talked about "risking fatness" at one point. This is such a judgy and exclusionary vies, and it should be challenged more. Women's worth as people does NOT come from their thinness or desirability, and if even books that are promoted for being feminist buy into the notion that it does, then the bar is just way too low. She keeps going on describing fatness as synonymous to undesirability throughout the rest of the novel. And to make matters worse, "I don't read books by men" is one of the biggest White Feminist takes I've seen in a while. Like, you don't read books by men AT ALL? Sure, don't read white allocishet men if you want, but what about marginalized men? Ugh. This was made even worse when she said something about finding anal sex "violent and violating", which is such a homophobic thing to say? CWs: rape, sexual abuse, misogyny, homophobia (not challenged), aphobia (not challenged), fatphobia (not challenged), alcoholism

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    Trigger warnings regarding this review and the book itself. Me: older, cis-gendered male, not the target audience, so consider the source. [I add here that after reviewing this I read dozens of reviews here on Goodreads and was surprised to find how many women in particular deeply dislike this book. They are not sympathetic about Williams's story, they focus on her bad choices and focus on particular things to the exclusion of the broad picture, what I see as the over all impact. I had not been a Trigger warnings regarding this review and the book itself. Me: older, cis-gendered male, not the target audience, so consider the source. [I add here that after reviewing this I read dozens of reviews here on Goodreads and was surprised to find how many women in particular deeply dislike this book. They are not sympathetic about Williams's story, they focus on her bad choices and focus on particular things to the exclusion of the broad picture, what I see as the over all impact. I had not been as affected by these things, I guess. I also note that of my Goodreads friends who are men, they tended to think this was better than how my Goodreads women friends see it. Not sure what to make of that.] "We tell our stories to bear witness to one another's suffering and to antagonize a status quo that invalidates our lived experience." Since I had just re-read Milkman, by Ann Burns, a book that focuses on the "encroachment" by various men on a teenaged narrator living in late seventies Belfast, it seemed timely for me to have just randomly picked up this volume at the library (not quite randomly, as one of you had highly recommended it, so I recognized the title). This is a book I thought from the first was primarily about what it meant for the narrator to be living as a woman in a male world--constant male gaze, assault, rape, experienced in various ways by a majority of women. The title is the starting point, her being watched by and having her privacy encroached on in various ways by men on her long NYC train commute to and from work. That's just the start, though, as that moment helps her reflect on her various mostly bad experiences with men all across her life. Then we discover that the narrator is an alcoholic who has slept with many many men over the years that she mostly never liked, most of whom would seem to be assholes, with the main things derived from it guilt and shame. Sure there were some decent guys, but she rejected them quickly as it would have contradicted her road to self-obliteration and dissociation. We might be inclined at this point to judge some of her acts; if you do, she would have been the first to join you. But then it would seem that some of the dimensions of her alcoholism is tied to that very guilt and shame from an endless parade of sexual abuse at the hands of men from her early years, so it is in fact that this very much still is a book about what it is like to be living as a woman in a male world, but also about the complicated relationship between sex, desire, shame, and self-abuse. She owns some of her trauma along the way, too, (without the shame, this time) so it is more complicated than I have thus far may have related it. And then she decides to "save her life" (she says) by having a baby, to help regain a healthy relationship to her own body, and this would appear to have worked. And she also uses the book, the telling of her tale, to also save her life. As a man I found I learned a lot and painfully from her story, maybe especially after reading Milkman. Lots of women will read this and feel affirmed, and it will be used in women's studies courses, but I really want to encourage more men to read this. In case you hadn't noticed, we are still very much in the #metoo moment that is equally important for men to learn how to contribute to changing the world. It was sometimes like a gut punch for me. Throughout but especially at the end she includes several aphorisms/memes worthy of consideration: "In all of these sexual transactions, I lost." "Our trauma becomes our shame." "We are groomed for compliance." [I will say as an addition that I saw many women seemed to be particularly annoyed by how much time was spent on her putting on her make-up, her getting ready to be viewed by men, I guess. I see this is a complicated critique of societal expectations but also an admission of the complexities of her own desire. When she doesn't wear make up she feels invisible to men, and when she wears make up she feels like the object of often--but not always--unwanted desire.] "The yes or no of consent is not what separates mutual desire from predation." "There is no greater obstacle than vulnerability, but that is what is required."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    I set a lot of things aside with topics personal to me but because I felt this was such an important book I made time for it. Sadly, this turned out to be something completely different to what I, and many others, had envisaged when reading the synopsis. I was willing to move past my usual mantra of not even really considering graphic novels and second and much more importantly, I was willing to accept that this, owing to the topic, would undoubtedly open old wounds in regards to sexual abuse su I set a lot of things aside with topics personal to me but because I felt this was such an important book I made time for it. Sadly, this turned out to be something completely different to what I, and many others, had envisaged when reading the synopsis. I was willing to move past my usual mantra of not even really considering graphic novels and second and much more importantly, I was willing to accept that this, owing to the topic, would undoubtedly open old wounds in regards to sexual abuse suffered in my past. I expected this to, of course, be very frank and honest but also to a large extent compassionate and that couldn't have been further from the truth. I think many will read the blurb, like I did, and go in expecting something similar to what I did but what they will receive is not merely a world away but a whole sprawling universe. Of course, reading is subjective and you may not agree with my critique on the matter. If this accurately reflects Williams's rumination she is not really the type of person I would want as a friend; her thoughts on fat people were rather demeaning, but she does make some interesting and salient points when it comes to women's position in society, which I enjoyed. The mention of shaming I assumed was going to be by the characters in this tale but actually, much of the shaming was done by the author and wasn't properly and forcefully addressed as being wrong. I couldn't believe some of the stuff contained in these pages and I hope this review helps to protect readers who may be upset, like I was, by the whole narrative. It portrays women as either victims of unwanted male attention or as invisible from male view and therefore lonely; these are very cut and dry and definitely not the full story. It's really quite bizarre, and not in a good way! I am rarely offended but found this came incredibly close to it especially all of the excuses made for male behaviour; as a survivor of sexual assault this made me feel physically sick, and I found it astonishing that the author has been through rape herself and was able to write about such encounters in such a blaisé manner. I write this negative review as a means to warn others and hopefully save them from some of the upset. Many thanks to ABRAMS ComicArts for an ARC.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    "We women doubt the reality of our own experiences. The culture that defines us grabs onto the question of consent so that all other abuses of power are still at play. It's our stories against theirs. Our trauma becomes our shame. Shame is an instrument of oppression. Show me a narrator less reliable than one who seeks to main his own power and control." This is not an easy read, and early on I was unsure about the author's goal in writing this graphic memoir. And then something clicked. It's eas "We women doubt the reality of our own experiences. The culture that defines us grabs onto the question of consent so that all other abuses of power are still at play. It's our stories against theirs. Our trauma becomes our shame. Shame is an instrument of oppression. Show me a narrator less reliable than one who seeks to main his own power and control." This is not an easy read, and early on I was unsure about the author's goal in writing this graphic memoir. And then something clicked. It's easy to judge others, especially women, but we often forget that girls and women live in a different world than boys and men. In a patriarchal society, the rules are created by men for men, and everyone else must try to navigate the rapids. Daily. Everywhere. As I write this I am reminded of the campaign in India targeted at women: Don't get raped. Huh. This powerful memoir challenges the status quo of the male gaze, and asks us to not only recognize it, but acknowledge that there is a toll inflicted on those viewed. I liked the illustration style, and this is one that moved me more than I expected. Trigger warnings abound - but honestly, shouldn't life come with those warnings too? Highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    Wow - this GN hit me hard. The way our society objectifies women is a real problem that we have only started to address. Just a commute on public transportation can force women into so many situations they should not have to put up with. Highly recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    Damn, I really thought I was going to love this. But I’m now halfway through and just can’t bear another 150 pages of it, so it’s a DNF. I thought it was going to be along the lines of Maria Stoian’s ‘Take it as a Compliment’, which I loved. But it’s largely about the protagonist going about her dull morning routine while thinking about the various unpleasant heterosexual men she’s known. Which is... fine I guess? But not something I’m that into. Basically the point of the book is that (heterose Damn, I really thought I was going to love this. But I’m now halfway through and just can’t bear another 150 pages of it, so it’s a DNF. I thought it was going to be along the lines of Maria Stoian’s ‘Take it as a Compliment’, which I loved. But it’s largely about the protagonist going about her dull morning routine while thinking about the various unpleasant heterosexual men she’s known. Which is... fine I guess? But not something I’m that into. Basically the point of the book is that (heterosexual) women can choose to be desirable and visible, or undesirable and invisible. Which, again... fine I guess? But the missing phrase here is “TO HETEROSEXUAL MEN”. Desirable TO HETEROSEXUAL MEN or invisible TO HETEROSEXUAL MEN. There are examples in the book where the protagonist talks to or interacts with women but I guess they don’t count? Or the women only talk to her because they desire her? It’s unclear. There’s also a fair amount of fatphobia, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if it was being engaged with and critiqued. But instead the protagonist mentions the worry about overeating because then she will “risk fatness and undesirability”, as if they’re the same thing. And yeah, if you’re going to unpack it and analyse it, fine. But it doesn’t feel right to just say fatphobic shit and then never examine it. Generally the protagonist is difficult to spend time with because she comes across as very judgemental and pretentious, which again is fine if you’re going to examine that. Occasionally there’s a page like when she fucks over her good friend for a men under a massive picture that says FEMINIST - pages like that suggest some self-reflection or self-critique. But every other time, the judgement and snobbery goes unexamined. I really wanted to like this, and I think it could have been a very good book with a little more thought and analysis. As it is, I’m going to re-read Take it as a Compliment instead.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Book Soul9

    Thank you to Abrams ComicArts for giving me a free ARC in exchange for an honest review! ✦ ABOUT THE AUTHOR✦ Erin Williams is a writer, illustrator, and researcher living in New York. She’s the coauthor of The Big Fat Activity Book for Pregnant People and The Big Activity Book for Anxious People. ✦ THE FEMALE FACE OF SHAME ✦ In her book, Erin talks about an uncomfortable reality and the way she accepted the truth about herself. Erin represents many women who have experienced exactly the same t Thank you to Abrams ComicArts for giving me a free ARC in exchange for an honest review! ✦ ABOUT THE AUTHOR✦ Erin Williams is a writer, illustrator, and researcher living in New York. She’s the coauthor of The Big Fat Activity Book for Pregnant People and The Big Activity Book for Anxious People. ✦ THE FEMALE FACE OF SHAME ✦ In her book, Erin talks about an uncomfortable reality and the way she accepted the truth about herself. Erin represents many women who have experienced exactly the same thing. Almost every woman has been taken advantage of by some guy and after she felt shame. And now, Erin ecourages these women to talk freely about that subject. She tells us that it is natural to feel this way, but she also says that we should stand up for ourselves. There is something intriguing about the power of women that makes them so unique. ✦ SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION OF WOMEN ✦ There is one big, ugly truth. Men view women as sex objects. No matter how much we try to reject that fact, it just exists. It’s our reality and the author of this book shows us that. Erin tells us her story about relationships with guys. Each one of them saw her as a sex object. This sexual objectification reflects on her self image in a way that she was constantly searching for male approval. She invites guy to come over her place, but she doesn’t feel anything. ✦ IT IS OKAY TO STAND UP FOR YOURSELF ✦ Many women do not talk about female shame or any kind of abuse. Women are raped, treated badly, or were neglected and some of them just remain silent about that. They think it is something natural – the way it should be. The truth is that it is NOT natural and it should NEVER be like that. They deserve much, much better things and Commute is all about that. The author wants us women to be united and always support each other. ✦ OVERALL ✦ I really enjoyed reading this book and it was so emotional experience for me. Just the way Erin talks about her battles freely is so uncomfortable for me, and I admire her for her strength. It takes a lot of courage to talk about your life openly, especially when you have been through so much. I also loved the illustration in the book and I can’t wait to order the final copy – it will be printed in color and I am beyond excited! Also, this book is not for young readers because there is some explicit content. I definitely recommend this book to adult readers who like to read self-help books.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    Wrong book, wrong day. There may be some good points in here about the cover topic of female shame, but early on the author declares that she is an alcoholic and much of the book recounts her shitty and drunken interactions with shitty men during a time when she was her shittiest person. A lot of who I am today is defined by the infinite resentment I hold toward the alcoholics in my life, and reading about this one today caught me off guard and really pissed me off. (I read most of the new graph Wrong book, wrong day. There may be some good points in here about the cover topic of female shame, but early on the author declares that she is an alcoholic and much of the book recounts her shitty and drunken interactions with shitty men during a time when she was her shittiest person. A lot of who I am today is defined by the infinite resentment I hold toward the alcoholics in my life, and reading about this one today caught me off guard and really pissed me off. (I read most of the new graphic novels that come into the library and rarely bother to look at anything except the front cover before I begin reading. I may have glanced at the short description on Goodreads weeks or months before, but will have usually forgotten it before turning to the first page.) So through this prism, the whole book came off like one of those godawful courtroom scenes where the author is simultaneously the victim of sexual assault and the asshole defense lawyer whose lead-off question is, "What were you wearing that night?" What should be straightforward just became a muddle. The thing that made the most sense to me in the book was the analogy late in the book about the author looking for oranges at a gas station, and I don't think nearly enough time was spent unpacking the implications of that.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Krista Regester

    Erin Williams is unapologetic in her display of how living as a woman includes a lot of bullshit hidden within the fine print. It’s blunt, explicit, and most of all: relatable.

  10. 5 out of 5

    ashley c

    As I was reading Commute, I come to the realisation that I have perhaps approached memoirs wrongly - I expect them all to be reflective pieces, using life-long experiences to piece together insights about something - in this case feminism and the female experience. I find that instead of learning new ideas, enjoying thoughtful discussions, or having my beliefs challenged, I read mostly the same re-hashed experiences through yet another person's life. And while I do resonate with Williams, being As I was reading Commute, I come to the realisation that I have perhaps approached memoirs wrongly - I expect them all to be reflective pieces, using life-long experiences to piece together insights about something - in this case feminism and the female experience. I find that instead of learning new ideas, enjoying thoughtful discussions, or having my beliefs challenged, I read mostly the same re-hashed experiences through yet another person's life. And while I do resonate with Williams, being a woman and all, and while I appreciate that this person has allowed me to share her shame, guilt, trauma, and joy in her way, the way she chose to (and I hope that publishing this was healing for her), it didn't change me in any way. It was made worse by how it was clearly marketed as a "feminist take on consent and assault" but really it is just someone's take on their own life. There are a few targeted quotes at the end of the memoir meant to drive home this point but I had to read it a few times, and I still did not understand some of the quotes, the most referred to one being: "Defining sexual abuse as rape and rape as lack of consent hurts women. It belies any of our sexual experiences; the ugly, confusing ones that we don't think we liked, but couldn't quite understand. The ones with men and boys we knew. The ones that just felt bad. The ones that take months or years to unravel." I feel like it's meant to sound profound, but of course it pissed off a lot of people for good reason. I feel like she tried to preface it in the previous page by saying, "The yes or no of consent is not what separates mutual desire from predation. The game is rigged - all the power is concentrated on the other side." I interpreted that as her saying that we live in a patriarchal world where even if one consented to a heterosexual sexual interaction, it doesn't change the fact that she is oppressed and more often than not, her body commodified and objectified by her heterosexual, male sexual partners. Which makes sense for her to lead into how the fact that we see sexual assault is a lack of consent hurts women because even if you consented, you did not enter the interaction with a balance of power, and women may feel guilt and shame at 'bad experiences' that they consented to that were essentially sexual violence. But honestly even as I typed that out, it's a stretch for me and not at all intuitive when I read this book. I read the many other reviews saying that they did not enjoy Commute because she is fatphobic, she trivalises sexual assault, she's homophobic, she does not see her own flaws, she's a misandrist, she is an unlikable character. To be honest I bumped my rating up one star because of all these other reviews. While I did not like this book I disagree with all of the above, and I am honestly floored by the last two. This is her lived experience. Anal sex was violating for her - it being something that gay people do does not detract from her heterosexual experience, which, in her words near the end of the book, an experience where "all the power is concentrated on the other side", a sentiment that literally is the cornerstone of feminism. Being afraid of men because of the many traumatic experiences (that she shared in the exact same book) she had because of, well, living in a world violent towards women, and reclaiming that experience in small ways such as not reading books written by men or taking a picture of a harasser's shoes is valid, and misandry is not on par with misogyny. And the criticism about her being unlikable, or arrogant, or that she's unwilling to see her flaws is astounding. This isn't a story - this is real life, and people are, believe it or not, unlikable. I find it funny that I'm defending a book I don't like. I don't know what to think of this, to be quite honest. Overall, I think I'm neither better nor worse off after reading this, and really there are many other feminist graphic novels and memoirs that you're much better off reading.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brianna - Coffee Books and Bullet Journals

    1.5 Stars Wow... This was not at all what I was expecting and was actually pretty terrible. I get what the author was trying to do. She was trying to show the struggles that women have in today's society. But it was so stereotyped, it wasn't believable. The author comes across as a misandrist, homophobic and fatphobic. She constantly talks about how she, at 125 pounds is fat and therefore undesirable, and if you weren't desirable (to men) you were invisible and not worthy (very harmful for some p 1.5 Stars Wow... This was not at all what I was expecting and was actually pretty terrible. I get what the author was trying to do. She was trying to show the struggles that women have in today's society. But it was so stereotyped, it wasn't believable. The author comes across as a misandrist, homophobic and fatphobic. She constantly talks about how she, at 125 pounds is fat and therefore undesirable, and if you weren't desirable (to men) you were invisible and not worthy (very harmful for some people to read), how anal sex was violent and violating (homophobic, and also, her opinion, not a fact) and there was a comment about how she never read anything from male authors, and her over generalization of men based on her few experiences of how men treated her. (misandry). On top of that, the art was just not my style and I found it jarring. I applaud the author for her candor and honesty in revealing these intimate details of her life and her story. But this came across as anger, instead of providing a solution to the problem. It was just a rant. CW: homophobia, fatphobia, alcoholism, rape, assault, misandry, drug abuse, sexual abuse, graphic illustrations of genetalia,

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lily

    ***Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a free ARC in exchange for an honest review!*** The concept of this book was wonderful, however, the execution left a lot to b desired. The art style freaked me out a little bit, but I know that's a very subjective thing. However, some of the illustrations looked like chicken scratch without any effort put in. The chronology was also very strange, in that 1/4 of the book was just talking about her morning routine and then she kept relating ***Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a free ARC in exchange for an honest review!*** The concept of this book was wonderful, however, the execution left a lot to b desired. The art style freaked me out a little bit, but I know that's a very subjective thing. However, some of the illustrations looked like chicken scratch without any effort put in. The chronology was also very strange, in that 1/4 of the book was just talking about her morning routine and then she kept relating everything to her sexual assault. Which... I get it, that's the point, but it was starting to feel a little bit awkward. Also, I was not warned that there were going to be graphic illustrations of genitalia, which I can normally handle, but it definitely caught me off guard, and I think warnings for that (especially in graphic novels) are VERY important. Finally, there was a lot of fatphobia and talking about wanting to be beautiful and losing weight and whatnot, and that definitely also rubbed me the wrong way. I wanted to like this book, but it definitely fell short.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    Wow! I am floored by the brave and honest truth in this book. Erin Williams tells an unflinching reality about herself and sadly many, many women. I can identify all too well with her story. Perhaps not to the degree but yes, had a few similar experiences, being taken advantage of by guys then feeling the shame. Finally women are talking about this openly. I'm amazed at how forceful and direct this author wrote and illustrated her life story. She is unflinching and it is uncomfortable. It is what Wow! I am floored by the brave and honest truth in this book. Erin Williams tells an unflinching reality about herself and sadly many, many women. I can identify all too well with her story. Perhaps not to the degree but yes, had a few similar experiences, being taken advantage of by guys then feeling the shame. Finally women are talking about this openly. I'm amazed at how forceful and direct this author wrote and illustrated her life story. She is unflinching and it is uncomfortable. It is what is necessary and needed. When the book comes out in color it will be all that more powerful. I hope men will read this, but I have a feeling very few will, especially the men who do this, did this, who should see what their behavior does, and how it lingers years and decades later. I received a free print copy of this book at a library conference. I was not required to write a review, but felt like it and, of course, the above opinions are my own.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Maia

    An extremely raw and honest memoir with meditations on alcohol addition, rape, bad sex, and the low level sexual harassments the author faces daily as a woman who commutes in New York. Williams has a powerful voice, weaving together memories and quotes from books with observations and admissions. I heard the author speak last year and was very impressed, but procrastinated on reading the book because of the heavy subjects. But it was a faster and less painful read than I feared- the humor and se An extremely raw and honest memoir with meditations on alcohol addition, rape, bad sex, and the low level sexual harassments the author faces daily as a woman who commutes in New York. Williams has a powerful voice, weaving together memories and quotes from books with observations and admissions. I heard the author speak last year and was very impressed, but procrastinated on reading the book because of the heavy subjects. But it was a faster and less painful read than I feared- the humor and self-insight kept me turning the pages. I read it all in one sitting.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This is a stream of consciousness of a woman and how she feels she is represented in the world. Part of it is based on her commute back and forth to the office. Part of it is her thoughts on everything around her, and how women are assaulted with the gaze of men. There is a little too much about how she gets ready in the morning. The beginning of the book is a bit drawn out. But once you get past that, and she talks about all things women, about giving birth, about many bad dates, and about the wa This is a stream of consciousness of a woman and how she feels she is represented in the world. Part of it is based on her commute back and forth to the office. Part of it is her thoughts on everything around her, and how women are assaulted with the gaze of men. There is a little too much about how she gets ready in the morning. The beginning of the book is a bit drawn out. But once you get past that, and she talks about all things women, about giving birth, about many bad dates, and about the way advertising features women's bodies. It is a bit of stream of consiouoness about it, and if you can stand reading that way, you might find this enjoyable. Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Garden

    Beautiful.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nen & Jen

    This memoir of ‘female shame’ really tore in to my heart with its intimate authenticity. Erin Williams’ story does not bow down to normal conventions of removing banality and hiding the grittier aspects of life. This story is raw with honesty and flays your heart open like a fresh wound ready to take a repeated pounding. Maybe it was just me. Maybe it was the simplistic artistic style that did not aspire to perfection but rather existed as a visual representation of Williams’ message of shining This memoir of ‘female shame’ really tore in to my heart with its intimate authenticity. Erin Williams’ story does not bow down to normal conventions of removing banality and hiding the grittier aspects of life. This story is raw with honesty and flays your heart open like a fresh wound ready to take a repeated pounding. Maybe it was just me. Maybe it was the simplistic artistic style that did not aspire to perfection but rather existed as a visual representation of Williams’ message of shining a light on all of the things we try to hide. This story is not an easy read but that makes it all the more worthy of your time. Pros: Commute was an incredibly authentic story that lent weight and respect to the gritty and honest themes that were present (and darker in nature than I had anticipated). The impact of sexual abuse, addiction and the constant fight for recovery was evident throughout this book. It was real, scathingly honest and painted a picture that was hard to look away from. I loved the banal elements in this book. At first I thought they were making an irreverent commentary on the unimportance of everything else in her life. Rather, the story highlighted the small, inconsequential events that we take for granted everyday. It lent a positive light on to the small victories that we almost forget about winning. The message of being a sexual object or being invisible was one I hadn’t considered before but started to notice everywhere once I knew what to look for. It’s mind bogglingly simple as an idea and yet so complex and intricate in real life. Cons: I mean this with all due respect considering the content matter of this book, but it seemed to lacked a consideration for the similar circumstances many men face in their lifetime. They are not exempt from painful experiences of sexual abuse, addiction and recovery. I can see why they would have been painted as the ‘bad guys’ in this novel. I even agree with majority of the stereotypes placed on them as a whole. What I would have liked to have seen however, was some indication of the fact that women are not the only ones who struggle with these issues. The onus of blame in regards to addiction was a tough one to swallow in this story. There never seems to be a ‘right answer’ or one direct person to blame. You can’t even blame the addict. I loved and yet disliked that this story did not have a clear or simple ending.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Erin Williams is a writer and illustrator living in New York. She is the author and artist who has produced this wonderful graphic novel. Commute: An Illustrated memoir of female shame. She uses the daily journey to and from work to highlight what it is to be a woman. The simple act which can become a daily chore for women who can be left uncomfortable by male attention. Lustful stares, inappropriate touching and the whole aspect of being objectified. Yet the piece of writing is far more than a s Erin Williams is a writer and illustrator living in New York. She is the author and artist who has produced this wonderful graphic novel. Commute: An Illustrated memoir of female shame. She uses the daily journey to and from work to highlight what it is to be a woman. The simple act which can become a daily chore for women who can be left uncomfortable by male attention. Lustful stares, inappropriate touching and the whole aspect of being objectified. Yet the piece of writing is far more than a simple narrative or feminine rant. It is less of a diary and more a cathartic outpouring of emotion, guilt, shame, inappropriate choice, substance abuse, collusion and personal responsibility. However it conveys with a great deal of openness, graphic drawings, charm and wit, a naked, broken self that needed restoration not just another failed relationship. Here, it seems as though she uses the journey to unpack her failed life. She flits between previous sexual encounters, drunken liaisons and the men who have belittled, abused and damaged her psyche. It is a chilling read for her honesty and the dark recollections are unsettling. As a reader you have nowhere to hide, as a male you feel a predator and part of the story that would devalue and cheapen her experiences. I loved the illustrations and the feeling it was her outpouring of all of herself that arrested your eyes and captured your attention on each speech bubble of her struggle and her reality as a woman. Her writing is so frank and revealing that you cannot be anything other than engaged in this revelation of skewed values, yet survival in the face of violence and self-destruction. So the commute can be seen as a metaphor of female reality and oppression, common to all who are seen for their sexuality in the first instance. But it is also the familiar trip to and from work that allows her mind to wander and relate a lifetime of disenfranchisement and where in relationships consent was rarely sought or given. How she has stopped punishing herself in this, why she has stopped listening to the male voices that put her down and how she started to live. In this vicarial dialogue and record of a life laid bare we feel a shared journey. It is a difficult read as it is so dark, bleak and candid but it is a journey to wholeness and for that experience alone it is a book that validates.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elyse

    NetGalley ARC. Warning: There are graphic drawings (just human anatomy but still) that I was not prepared for. You've been warned. I appreciate what the author was trying to do but I just couldn't relate to much of anything. This is her personal diary basically. I've never had a problem with alcohol. I don't live in the city, I'm not often on the subway, I've never been in much of the situations she's been in. I'm glad to feel invisible in crowds or with strangers, it doesn't make me feel lonely. NetGalley ARC. Warning: There are graphic drawings (just human anatomy but still) that I was not prepared for. You've been warned. I appreciate what the author was trying to do but I just couldn't relate to much of anything. This is her personal diary basically. I've never had a problem with alcohol. I don't live in the city, I'm not often on the subway, I've never been in much of the situations she's been in. I'm glad to feel invisible in crowds or with strangers, it doesn't make me feel lonely. Maybe because I have someone to go home to, who makes me feel visible and desirable. And that correlation I don't care for. As a woman in public you're either visible and desirable or invisible and not desirable. Nahhh. I think you're pegging all men to being one way and that's not true. Also, apparently being fat means you're not desirable and that's pretty rude and bullshit. And the author is a pretty self-destructive, self-sabotaging person. So most of the book made me sad. For her, for her experiences, for some of the men she dated. Also, I can't get behind "I don't read men." Uhh yeah okay. But if a man said "I don't read women" he would be raked over the coals. And of rape, I just don't know where the line of responsibility is drawn. Every rape instance is different from the previous one, not just in Erin's book/life but literally EVERY SINGLE rape instance. They're not all black and white "she was drugged and he raped her" situations. Those are so much less now. We as women have to be responsible for our own actions and our own mistakes too. We can't just regret something and call it something else. I know that hardly happens but I'm not going down the rabbit hole of examples. I'm not explaining myself well and I don't know that I can explain myself. I can't find the right words and am going to get myself in trouble because I can't figure out how to say what I mean!!!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    This was a hot mess. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting. This is a memoir of a woman who has been struggling with alcoholism for decades and, as she goes through the tedious motions of getting ready and commuting to and from work, revisits the memories of all the horrible men she’s ever experienced. Pretty much all of these men make her feel shitty about herself and a handful of them also force themselves on her. She fantasizes about a few of the men, all while she has a husband and baby wait This was a hot mess. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting. This is a memoir of a woman who has been struggling with alcoholism for decades and, as she goes through the tedious motions of getting ready and commuting to and from work, revisits the memories of all the horrible men she’s ever experienced. Pretty much all of these men make her feel shitty about herself and a handful of them also force themselves on her. She fantasizes about a few of the men, all while she has a husband and baby waiting for her at home. She never talks about her husband, only how awful men are. One of the things that bothered me the most about this is that she says women are either desirable or invisible and every woman wants to be desirable. Excuse me, but no thank you, ew. She also has some questionable things to say about sexual assault and rape and I just didn’t understand what she was trying to say: “Defining sexual abuse as rape and rape as lack of consent hurts women. It belies many of our sexual experiences; the ugly, confusing ones that we don’t think we liked, but couldn’t quite understand.” Wtf? I just overall felt gross and angry while reading this. She said a few relatable things about being scared and constantly on alert when traveling alone and having a man suddenly come towards you, and how bizarre the marketing of women’s bodies is in advertisements, but that was about it. I wouldn’t recommend it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Riegs

    Can see why this book may rub some readers the wrong way. It's dark, brooding, and difficult to swallow at times - which is kind of the point? Shame is not pleasant. This memoir isn't meant to be pleasant. I can't agree with the dismissive, one-star fatphobia criticisms in other reviews. In the text, she says: "I was not skinny enough. Ladies, this is a trap. There will always be too much of you - fat, noise, age - every way you take up space is undesirable." (Author's bold emphasis, not mine.) Can see why this book may rub some readers the wrong way. It's dark, brooding, and difficult to swallow at times - which is kind of the point? Shame is not pleasant. This memoir isn't meant to be pleasant. I can't agree with the dismissive, one-star fatphobia criticisms in other reviews. In the text, she says: "I was not skinny enough. Ladies, this is a trap. There will always be too much of you - fat, noise, age - every way you take up space is undesirable." (Author's bold emphasis, not mine.) Like, what about this passage makes you believe the author herself is fatphobic, and isn't criticizing the fatphobia we're all living with? Is the word "trap" not critical enough?? There was a lot going on this book. It seems like Erin Williams wanted to interrogate the ugly gray areas of sexual abuse and self-flagellation through addiction, not weight. There are more than a few readers that clearly aren't reading closely enough and leaving thoughtless reviews. Lame.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    My long-form review of this excellent book is on tcj.com: http://www.tcj.com/reviews/commute/ My long-form review of this excellent book is on tcj.com: http://www.tcj.com/reviews/commute/

  23. 5 out of 5

    Keen

    “Show me a narrator less reliable than one who seeks to maintain his own power and control.” I seem to be reading a lot of feminist graphic memoirs of late and most of them make for dark, funny and enlightening reads (not all of them are funny). This is clearly not for everyone and there were times that it made for deeply uncomfortable reading. With themes of anger, alcoholism, rape, guilt, shame and recovery, there is certainly plenty to take in. “I realised quickly that I was not on this date “Show me a narrator less reliable than one who seeks to maintain his own power and control.” I seem to be reading a lot of feminist graphic memoirs of late and most of them make for dark, funny and enlightening reads (not all of them are funny). This is clearly not for everyone and there were times that it made for deeply uncomfortable reading. With themes of anger, alcoholism, rape, guilt, shame and recovery, there is certainly plenty to take in. “I realised quickly that I was not on this date as a participant, but as a witness to his dramatic portrayal of a man on a date.” Often this just feels like a long list of all the men the author hates or has been hurt by, but then this isn’t to say her feelings aren’t valid, it can just start to get a little intense and overwhelming, but of course she is addressing an intense and overwhelming subject. “We are groomed for compliance.” This is a funny, bitter, cutting and confronting memoir that also had me cringing in parts too. There is an offbeat tragic comedy feel about it, almost a little like a Woody Allen movie, but with a semi-relatable recovering alcoholic woman instead of a group of smug, boring, rich upper middle class Jewish New Yorkers. “Our trauma becomes our shame.” I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan of the drawing and yet it still works really well, there were times when this annoyed me and others when I really connected with it. This is one of those books which is far bigger than the sum of its parts, a powerful and convincing piece of work.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cait Weiss Orcutt

    A deeply moving, unflinching but also somehow wondrous account of what goes on in our mind (those memories, hopes, fears, rehashings of shame, moments of self doubt...) when we are just going through the habitual moments of our days. While the protagonist of this graphic memoir has gotten sober and is therefore rebuilding herself & reexamining past traumas, anyone with a past & a body can relate to those weird time-travelleing moments where some innocuous person, place or thing reminds you of so A deeply moving, unflinching but also somehow wondrous account of what goes on in our mind (those memories, hopes, fears, rehashings of shame, moments of self doubt...) when we are just going through the habitual moments of our days. While the protagonist of this graphic memoir has gotten sober and is therefore rebuilding herself & reexamining past traumas, anyone with a past & a body can relate to those weird time-travelleing moments where some innocuous person, place or thing reminds you of someone/somewhere/something from your past and the mind scoots you back in time to relive the tucked-away memory whether you want to or not. The book is real & honest but also empowering & ultimately uplifting, reminding us that our experiences, good and bad, are what allow us to connect to and speak with others. Our histories give us commonalities and compassion. I love this book and admire it as a piece of art & storytelling, proof of what beauty can come from facing life without shame.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I don't know. There were parts of this I really loved and honestly I think I would've liked it better if it had represented more of my own experiences of female shame. But I appreciated it for its therapeutic insight and I liked reading about her alcoholism amd sobriety. I also dislike reading books by men! I think part of the reason I couldn't love this book is that Erin leaves the door open for "undesirable" women and people to tell their own stories, but she also fears becoming undesirable in I don't know. There were parts of this I really loved and honestly I think I would've liked it better if it had represented more of my own experiences of female shame. But I appreciated it for its therapeutic insight and I liked reading about her alcoholism amd sobriety. I also dislike reading books by men! I think part of the reason I couldn't love this book is that Erin leaves the door open for "undesirable" women and people to tell their own stories, but she also fears becoming undesirable in a couple of ways, but especially by becoming fat. I don't think she does it in a fatphobic way, just in a matter-of-fact way like 'our society is fatphobic and uses the undesirablility of fatness to control women.' Idk. It was good, but also not enough and it made me feel like my own female experiences of shame were somehow alien. I think this is a very good book for some people though.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jill Kenna

    Thank you to NetGalley for a free review copy of this book. This book was very interesting. It took me a little while to settle into it and to find the rhythm but once I did, I really enjoyed it. I felt like the beginning of the book was where I struggled to connect with the author the most. I felt like the morning routine section was just to long and detailed. I understood where she was going with it but it was so long that I can see a lot of readers losing interest quickly. Once I got through t Thank you to NetGalley for a free review copy of this book. This book was very interesting. It took me a little while to settle into it and to find the rhythm but once I did, I really enjoyed it. I felt like the beginning of the book was where I struggled to connect with the author the most. I felt like the morning routine section was just to long and detailed. I understood where she was going with it but it was so long that I can see a lot of readers losing interest quickly. Once I got through the beginning part of the book and onto the actual commute part I felt like the book really found it's stride. I feel like this is one of those books that you will either love or be bored by. Overall I feel like this is a great book to read (especially if you are a man) to get a different perspective on what it's like to be a woman just existing in this day and age.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Yao

    I enjoyed the art style and her nonchalant prose, however the contents of this book do not match up. It is a prime example of white "feminism". The author makes herself extremely unlikable and displays a narrow view of the world with her borderline misogyny, fatphobia, and general apathy. She seemingly exists in a social bubble of white, cishet, and well off people, which is fine on its own but results in the book being impossible for me to relate to. I would not regard this book as a feminist n I enjoyed the art style and her nonchalant prose, however the contents of this book do not match up. It is a prime example of white "feminism". The author makes herself extremely unlikable and displays a narrow view of the world with her borderline misogyny, fatphobia, and general apathy. She seemingly exists in a social bubble of white, cishet, and well off people, which is fine on its own but results in the book being impossible for me to relate to. I would not regard this book as a feminist novel.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kirsti

    Wow, a lot of people on Goodreads dislike this book. I didn't find it fatphobic, and I loved the variety in the illustrations, with some almost photorealistic and many others left spare and raw. The author's experience isn't my experience, but she expresses herself clearly and profoundly. I learned a lot about addiction and survival. I think this one will stay with me for a long time.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    This was not for me. There was a lot of stereotyping.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tuvana

    Intense

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