Originally launched as a print zine that invoked the legacy of 1970s feminist underground comix, Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf: A Sex Education Comic Book is a quirky but serious anthology that brings together candid personal commentary in the form of minicomics aimed at educating young people about sex and sexuality. Edited by Saiya Miller and Liz Bley, the book will be published by Soft Skull in August. It began as a thesis project at New York’s New School in 2008, when Miller—who is also the daughter of former Hyperion and Workman publisher Bob Miller—met her co-editor in a group organized around the effort.
The group, Miller said in a phone interview from her home in New Orleans, decided that the project would focus on personal narratives about every aspect of sex, and the members immediately agreed that comics, even the most amateur offerings, would be the storytelling format. “Comics are so accessible,” Miller said, adding, “we always wanted to use comics, plus we had a loose sense of what a comic could be, so it created an amazing variety of approaches to the storytelling.”
The result is a book offering nearly 200 pages of heartfelt, first-person illustrated commentary on everything from going to your first nude beach and having first-time sex to queer sex, elderly sex, drunken sex, and more. The book is organized into chapters, such as “Firsts and Beginnings” and “Bodies,” and each chapter is introduced by short personal essays by Miller and Bley describing their own sexual development. “The essays outline their relationship with these themes,” said Soft Skull editor Liz Parker, who worked with the two to “make the book cohesive.” Parker said the book—which will be categorized as “new adult”—“impressed me with its focus on gender and sexuality boiled down to the essentials of someone going through it. Soft Skull is a good home for this—nonfiction comics are a big trend.”
There’s a Web site (sexedcomicproject .blogspot.com) and Parker said Soft Skull plans a national print campaign, radio spots, a Goodreads giveaway, and “a ton of academic and library outreach,” while Miller and Bley will visit bookstores, colleges, and health clinics to spread the word. Miller said the book is the latest in a publishing genealogy of feminist sex manuals she traces back to 1970s underground comix pioneer Joyce Farmer and her anthology Tits and Clits Comix.
“Our book illustrates how the process of learning continues throughout life,” Miller said. “Learning how sexuality begins is even more important if you’re queer or unusual in any way, since your experiences won’t follow the usual first base–to–third base mainstream sex narrative.”