Stuck Rubber Baby

by
Stuck Rubber Baby

Author: Howard Cruse;  Art by Howard Cruse

Title: Stuck Rubber Baby

Genre: Gay/Lesbian, African-American, Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 1995

Number of Pages: 210

Geographical Setting: Southern United States

Time Period: 1960’s

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

While not a strictly autobiographical story, Stuck Rubber Baby nonetheless explores much of what author and artist Howard Cruse went through while growing up as a gay man in the South.

The story follows Toland Polk, a young white man living in the Southern town of Clayfield during the 1960s and the civil rights movement.  While unrest between blacks and whites (and whites and homosexuals) rages all around him, Toland must also deal with his inner turmoil about his own sexuality.  He begins the story in denial but eventually realizes who is and embraces it.

An older and wiser Toland “narrates”, appearing at the beginning of certain chapters with his present day partner.  We see them doing somewhat mundane things such as preparing dinner.  These small vignettes remind the reader that the story is being recalled and also let the reader know that Toland did emerge from all the chaos and become true to himself.

The black and white art is busy at times but highly detailed.  Various degrees of shading and crosshatching are used to distinguish black characters from white characters and though most of the faces sport unusually pointy chins, they all have defining characteristics that set them apart from each other.  This is important since there is quite a large cast surrounding Toland for the reader to keep track of throughout the story.

Touching, poignant and often funny, Stuck Rubber Baby is a moving story that resonates with themes both universal and personal.

Subject Headings:

Gay men – Comic books, strips, etc; Race relations; Civil rights; Graphic novels

Appeal:

ambitious, thoughtful, hostile, bleak, menacing, wistful, melancholy, hopeful, complex, angst-ridden, turmoil, provocative, poignant, courageous, potent, cynical, sardonic

3 terms that best describe this book: Challenging; Provocative; Rebellious

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction

Strangers In Paradise: Pocket Book 1 by Terry Moore

Slice of life tale of three friends who weather the storms of relationships with people outside their circle (or triangle) as well as with each other.

Similarities:  graphic novel format, gay/lesbian relationships, self discovery, cynical

Max and Sven by Tom Bouden

The story of Max who has a crush on his best friend Sven.  Sven however, is straight.

Similarities: graphic novel format, gay character, self discovery, angst

Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson

A memoir of Thompson’s religious upbringing and how he began to discover his true self after finding and falling in love with a girl at his bible camp.

Similarities:  graphic novel format, relationships, family, self discovery

Non-Fiction

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel recalls growing up in a funeral home with her father, a high school English teacher and closeted homosexual.

Similarities:  graphic novel format, gay relationships, families

Freedom Riders: John Lewis And Jim Zwerg On The Front Lines Of The Civil Rights Movement by Ann Bausum ; forewords by Freedom Riders Congressman John Lewis and Jim Zwerg

Two young men, one white and one black, recount their experiences during the Civil Rights era when they took part in the freedom rides.

Similarities:  civil rights, race relations, courage

The Wrong Side Of Murder Creek: A White Southerner In The Freedom Movement by Bob Zellner, with Constance Curry

Another memoir, this one dealing with the author’s experiences as a civil rights activist in the 1960s.  Like Toland in Stuck Rubber Baby, Bob Zellner was born in the South and participated in demonstrations against racial discrimination.

Similarities:  racial tension, civil rights, rebelliousness, courage

Name: Valerie Kyriakopoulos

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