The cover of this graphic novel makes one assume that it’s about the author’s marriage to his long-time partner, but by the end of the 112 pages, you will change your assumption. This witty, humane, honestly perceptive story about two men in a relationship and where they are right now in their lives in this country is more of a snapshot in time, with all the attendant Woody Allen-New York-neurotic angst one would expect from a working artist.
That’s not to say this isn’t an enjoyable read. It is. It’s like sitting down with your best friend to trade personal anecdotes, hurts, and love stories, with all the warmth that connects you to them. Honestly, Kirby is so perceptive and intuitive about himself and his partner and their families and friends, you feel like you’ve known them forever. I imagined us sitting with coffee while he admits in one page that he’s sometimes “micro-aggressive” in his select use of the word “husband” to other people.
As the graphic novel advances, Kirby uses red and blue colored pencils on a monochromatic background to draw attention to main parts of the story, express emotion, and communicate extra little funny comments on the side. There are extra comments squished in everywhere! Don’t miss the “Earthlink” comment on page 34 or the “Young Rob” on page 48.
The thing is, Kirby starts the story admitting that “he doesn’t have a sentimental bone in his body” and feels apathetic about getting married to partner John. He’s also nervous about getting older, and while he’s “adept at putting off scary stuff,” after Minnesota legalizes gay marriage, they decide to do it, just for the legalistic freedom it will give them.
Despite how much he tries to convince himself that marriage is just dotting an i or crossing a t, both men look positively scared but happy at the moment they hear, “I now pronounce you married.” So, maybe it was kind of a big thing after all? This moment is repeated on eleven other pages as the author places it against the background of what was happening politically in this country and how that affected people that don’t toe the WASP-traditional-nuclear-family-choice line.
Despite how happy they are as a couple, as time passes and they get on with their lives, with all the happiness and sadness that entails, Kirby compares their familial bliss with what’s going on in the country at large, and here is where the graphic novel changes to a very different theme. Part two is more of a recounting of the Trump years, the abolition of Roe v. Wade, the killing of George Floyd, mass shootings, and how the couple navigates the constantly changing landscape of the recent United States decisions.
At one point Kirby muses, “it sure would be nice to just not think about it anymore…but that’s not the world we live in.”
I remember as a child learning about the Civil Rights Act, which was voted into law the year before I was born. My childlike brain said, “Okay, that’s solved—they passed a law. So, like, that’s fixed, right?” It took me years to learn that it’s not that easy. So…me too, Rob. Me too.
Even when Rob and John are discussing these events with their friends, they’re sensitive and considerate to possible different opinions, and the story has such a good use of framing and flow to echo the previous pages in the story. This ties the first half of the story into the second half’s discussion.
I feel like the four pages of wedding-themed music and six pages of wedding-themed movies could have been less, and it slowed the story’s momentum. But that’s a small quibble for such an enjoyable read.
This graphic novel has no depictions of sexual acts but does portray two men kissing. There is no violence. There are many, many depictions of typical day to day adult family life, like grocery shopping, dog walking, working on the computer, and dinners out with friends. It should be shelved in the adult section and is recommended for any library.
Marry Me a Little: A Graphic Memoir
By Rob Kirby
Graphic Mundi, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 16+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)