Spit and Passion : By Cristy C. Road, 157 pgs. By Craven

May 17, 2013

If anything, Cristy Road is super prolific, to the point of being ubiquitous. Over the years, I’ve been both super annoyed by her work and genuinely impressed. I’ve gone from being bored shitless by her “went here/did this” stories of punk travel in her zine Green Zine, to totally immersed in writing she’s done on race and class. I’ve been completely irritated by trite drawings she’s done of open-mouthed punks in dumpsters shocking suited yuppies, to enamored by surrealistic and saintly portraits she’s done of people who could be her friends. Or, just as easily, someone any of us could know, elevating the mundane to the sublime. And, frankly, I’d just as soon have it this way. I’d rather have someone keep things interesting, even if it means being a bit spotty at times, than a reliable one-trick pony.

The thing with Road is that she’s been in punk for a long time and, as a result, her distinct, black and white illustration style is as recognizable as Cometbus’s handwriting to anyone who’s been involved in DIY punk for the last decade. And as time passes, I see less of the wide-eyed posi-fetishism that I found frustrating and a more distinct take on her punk rock world, with thick lines of realism slipping into the visceral hearts and blood that symbolize the radiant and near-divine passion of her and her community.

Spit and Passion is a thick graphic novel about Cristy’s attempt to come to terms with her queerness at thirteen. It’s not so much a story of her coming out, but more her staying in the closet. Her identification with Green Day, and how the band empowered her, gave her some of her only clues to another life being out there. She describes the conflict she had with being proud of her Cuban heritage but feeling like an outsider when faced by the homophobia of her family and friends.

A cold way to put it would be to say that it’s simply a great piece of music journalism, documenting how something as simple as an ex-punk band could be so influential to a young girl, leaving breadcrumbs to a better life where she could be out as queer and wouldn’t be stuck in her youthful closet. But that would throw this memoir in with all those bougie hacks who write all those horrible books about how Morrissey taught them to be proud of being a wusscentric, self-centered jerkoff or how they lost their virginity to (or in spite of) Black Sabbath. Road isn’t using Green Day as a pop culture shoe-in to a book deal—it’s deeper than that. It brings you into the claustrophobic closet and desperate longing of a pubescent lesbian girl trying to find something of herself in anything and finding not much anywhere. The closest she gets is Green Day, who she clings to like a talisman.

The most impressive thing about Spit and Passion is Cristy’s ability to so clearly recall her youth; the strength she’s had not to block out the hardship she dealt with. Maybe I’m projecting here, but as someone who remembers little of his pre-teen years—choosing to forget fundamental Christianity, family, money problems, and strife, and all the hell I went through in middle school—one has to respect the sheer force of memory that Road must have to be able to describe this story in such detail.

It will, hopefully, fall into the hands of kids as confused and alienated as she once was. It’s not the tired old story young punks are always regaled with about creating a scene and a community out of nothing, nor is it about a punk’s first show where she realizes there are other outcasts and misfits just like her. Instead, it’s a far braver story, one that takes place earlier,when a closet is a place of refuge for a confused young girl until the day she won’t have to be surrounded by fag jokes at school or religious uptightness at home. And the only clue she has of this is in the integrity of one rather mundane ex-punk band who weren’t afraid to stand up for queers or what they believed in. Through them she found faith that there was a better, more open-minded community that one day she might find, and one I think she ultimately did. In turn, she leaves some clearer and more direct markers behind for others to find their way, as well as a damn good memoir. –Craven Rock (The Feminist Press, 365 Fifth Ave, Suite 5406, NY, NY 10016, feministpress.org)