By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir, by Nicole J. Georges

Nicole is a 20-something illustrator and pet portrait artist, who lives in Portland, Oregon.  She has a strained relationship with her mother, and her father died years ago from colon cancer.  One birthday, a friend surprises her by taking her to a psychic.  Reading her palm, the psychic tells Nicole that she should really talk to her father more often, to which Nicole responds that her father is dead. “Maybe the man you think is your father is dead…but your real father is very much alive,” the psychic responds.  This strange encounter sends Nicole on a journey, unraveling over 20 years of family lies and deception.

Nicole’s sisters (10 and 12 years older) do not look like her.  Her mother has always withheld information about her father.  These niggling suspicions come to a head after speaking with the psychic, and Nicole turns to her partner for advice. This, too, is a family secret.  Portland is far from Kansas, where her mother lives, so it is easy to keep the fact that she is a lesbian from her family.  Her partner, bitter about being kept a secret, insists that Nicole visit her mother to tell her she is gay, and ask her who (and where) her father is.

Strangely enough, this animal-loving, vegan artist has always been a fan of the Dr. Laura radio program, a conservative advice call-in show hosted by Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  So, desperate for help, Nicole calls Dr. Laura for advice.  Dr. Laura tells her to visit her mother for Christmas and make the best of it.  If her father were alive, he would have found her.  Off to Kansas she flies, “[Where] I bode my time on the couch.  Not being gay.  Having a dead father.”

Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir is the story of a young woman searching for the truth about her father, but also the strength to be truthful about her own life.  A succession of step-fathers and a mother given to half truths and deception caused Nicole emotional distress and physical issues as a child.  Georges illustrates these flashbacks in simplified, childish drawings, while present day is drawn with great detail and emotion, making each change in time easy to follow.  Portland plays a major part in this memoir, too, with its skylines, bookshops, clubs, street scenes and house parties saturating the book.  Fans of graphic novels like Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel, or Marbles by Ellen Forney, or coming-out memoirs like Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeannette Winterson, or Naked In the Promised Land, by Lillian Faderman, will enjoy this unique memoir.

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