Book Club– “My Lesbian Experience with Lonliness,” by Nagata Kabi

“The next day… the world was a bigger place.

A bridge had sprung up over the course of the night.. connecting me to a continent I’d thought was unreachable. It was easier to breath.”

Kabi, pg

The What To Know:

“My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness,” is an poignant autobiographical manga, wherein the author Nagata Kabi portrays her deeply, brutally honest 10+ year battle with major depression, anxiety, and binge eating, as well as her brave, determined efforts to bring herself to life in spite of it. 

The Art:

I really enjoy Kabi’s art style— it perfectly activates the personal, emotional tone of the story. Her line art is thin and scratchy, making the world and Kabi look vaguely represented. It’s a brilliant artistic representation of Kabi’s chronic, enduring struggle to feel like a fully recognized, grown-up, functional person. She doesn’t employ the digital shading and tone art you typically see in manga. When blacking out an area on the page, she uses a rough, choppy hatching technique, making the lines feel frenzied and wild. She adds character to the panel art by adding in a flat, pink tone. I like how the pink isn’t given a specific role for how it fits into the art— it isn’t just shading, or a foreground fill, or a background fill, or her the color of her shorts, or the base of her mental musings. It gets placed wherever it needs to.

I’m often more blown away by really minimalist illustrations than by over-the-top crazy detailed illustrations (probably, this has something to do with the fact that I tend to fall more on the excessively detailed end of the spectrum when it comes to my own work). They often say that the key to making great art is not about knowing where to drop your lines— but knowing where not to. I kept thinking this to myself as I read MLEL, as I was often just so impressed by the powerful punch of Kabi’s art while also being so minimally defined. 

And I’m really here for the over-the-top expressiveness of Nagata’s caricature of herself. She gets so much powerful emotion from all over the spectrum in her. The acting throughout is very real, whether she is quietly meditating on her experiences in solitude, or stumbling through an awkward or difficult interaction. The limited cast and very introspective flow of the narration would probably struggle to strike a nerve is the art itself wasn’t super expressive and dramatic.  The narrative definitely does not drag, and the art is extremely engaging. 

‘Each and every day was hard. Twenty-four hours without a moment of respite. No matter how I looked at it, dying was an easier option. 

‘But I’d think about the many merits of being dead over being alive… and it was surprisingly aggravating,’

Nagata: “GODDAMMIT!!!”


‘That was how I started to think.’

The Story:

Kabi outlines how throughout her 20s, she is incapable of developing a cohesive vision of herself and her values. All floating around and feeling the pressure of these different images and narratives — who she thought her parents wanted her to be — what she assumed it meant to be a functioning adult — what she would have to do in order to be ‘acceptable’ — the grinding guilt of the things she actually wants and desires for herself — and her actually physical self—the starving girl in frumpy clothes with a bald spot and cuts all over her body.

And so she devolves into becoming a deeply, deeply fractured person as a result. She can’t get it together. She can’t take care of herself. She can’t figure out the nuts and bolts of living— of what it is that gives people the ability to just go on living (she develops a theory that there is some sort of ‘sweet nectar’ being given to people that she doesn’t know about—I’ve thought things like that before myself..). She can’t figure out how not to feel like some inferior imposter when people speak to her and treat her as another grown-up. She contemplates death and keeps it on the table of possibilities.. as she often marvels at how bad she is at being alive. 

I like how Kabi words things, when she finally decides she’s had enough, “If this is how it is, I’ve got nothing to lose!” 

When we’ve come to that place where we’re actively contemplating our To Be’s or Not To Be’s—and we’re drowning in all the ‘Why’s’ —why fight? why push? why try again? why endure? why climb? why!?!? 

Well. Why not? Because things will never improve? Oh really? Are you a shaman? How can you possibly know that? 

Why not? Seriously. Why the fuck not?

After Kabi’s battlecry proclamation —that she is going to FIGURE THIS SHIT OUT if its the last thing she does, we stumble along with her as she moves boldly forward. She makes a drastic decision that absolutely terrifies her but that she knows she needs to do in order to move forward. 

And as she moves forward she sets to unpack her past and shares her many insights — realizing that so much of what she grew up believing about herself and her world turn out to be illusions. Her past beliefs concerning adulthood, happiness, confidence, sex, intimacy, honesty, and how to enjoy being alive come forth and dissolve before her. As Nagata Kabi, the creator, comes forth into herself.  

x Rae

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