Book Review: As The Crow Flies

as the crow fliesAs The Crow Flies
by Melanie Gillman
Graphic Novel
272 pages
Published November 2017

This book is GORGEOUS, y’all. It started as a webcomic about Charlie’s experience at a Christian backpacking youth camp. The book covers the first three days of camp, and the webcomic is currently on Day 4. I actually didn’t know it was a webcomic until I hit the end of the book, went “Wait, what?!” and started poking the internet to see if there was a Volume 2. I did find part of Day 4 posted on the webcomic site, but the last comic was posted in June of 2017. I found statements that there is a Volume 2 planned on her Tumblr and elsewhere on the Internet, though.

The main character, Charlie, is a queer black girl who’s gone to a Christian summer camp. When she walks in, she discovers EVERYONE else is white, except one half-Native American counselor. She’s immediately got her guard up, and when another counselor mentions “whitening their souls” as a metaphor for purification, her guard goes up further. I loved how her friendship developed with Sydney, another camper, and their conversations are HILARIOUS. They plan to disrupt the mysterious “ceremony” planned for when they reach the peak of the mountain, but they keep coming up with outlandish ideas like summoning pterodactyls or raccoons with palanquins and little driver hats. (You know those crazy conversations you come up with when you’re exhausted!)

Some of the Christian rhetoric in the book annoyed me, but it annoys Charlie, too, so I guess that’s okay, or even intentional. There’s a lot of White Feminism on display in the book; the tradition the camp follows relied on black women not participating and keeping homes running (read: being slaves) while the white women went off to their women’s retreat. Charlie is understandably pissed about how nonchalant the head counselor is about that, too.

The head counselor actually seriously rubs me the wrong way; at one point she tells one of the girls, who had sprained her ankle, that she only has enough supplies for one ankle injury, so if she uses it now, she won’t have it for anyone else. Lady, if you only brought enough supplies for one sprained ankle, for like ten people on a week-long hike? That is YOUR problem, not the fault of the poor 13-year-old in pain in front of you. You should have planned better. The same thing with not having enough painkillers to spare for the poor girl who starts her period. I’m not sure if the head counselor is supposed to be an antagonist or not, but she sure seems that way.

I really love Charlie and Sydney, and I really really want to see what the ceremony is and how they decide to disrupt it, so I will be keeping an eye out for the webcomic to start posting again, or for news of a Volume 2. And the art is, again, absolutely GORGEOUS. I will probably be looking for more of the author’s work – she calls herself a “queertoonist” which is great! She’s queer and nonbinary, by her Twitter bio. Which makes this an #ownvoices book as well, and perfect for Pride Month. You can find the rest of my Pride Month reads listed here.

From the cover of As The Crow Flies:

Charlie Lamonte is thirteen years old, queer, black, and questioning what was once a firm belief in God. So naturally, she’s spending a week of her summer vacation stuck at an all-white Christian youth backpacking camp. As the journey wears on and the rhetoric wears thin, she can’t help but poke holes in the pious obliviousness of this storied sanctuary with little regard for people like herself . . . or her fellow camper, Sydney.

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