The Awkward Definition of Potential: An Interview with Ariel Schrag

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The Awkward Definition of Potential: An Interview with Ariel Schrag

Ariel Schrag is a truth-seeking guided missile. Her comic novels, Awkward, Definition and Likewise, chronicle her 9th, 10th, and 11th grade years respectively, and she wrote and distributed them while she was still in high school — that’s some serious chutzpah. Hard for me to even imagine finding the guts; not in high school, no sir.

Says the artist, “When you’re a teenager, you have this truth-seeking passion; you need to find out what the scoop is, you need to expose reality. You need to know, ‘what is the truth here?’ and it’s kind of like nothing matters compared to that.” 

After being picked up by Slave Labor Graphics, and now Simon and Schuster, her graphic novels went from being hand-copied and passed out in the halls of Berkeley High to having national publication. Soon they’ll be hitting the big screen with Killer Films (Boys Don't Cry, I'm Not There, This American Life) and director Rose Troche (Go Fish, The Safety of Objects). Oh yeah, and she wrote for seasons 3 and 4 of The L-Word, while also working on her next epic comic chronicle, Likewise. What is it about this specific art form that makes for such vivid, naked truth telling? Could her adolescent innocence, her earnest determination to experience life and tell the truth about growing up queer in America at the end of the 90’s, have come across nearly as vibrantly in a straight (forgive the pun) novel? When I first read her books, chronicling everything from her first girl-crush (of whom she says in Definition, “it was like she wasn’t even human; more like a mixture between a plastic doll and god”), to her first love, and agonizingly micromanaged plan to lose her virginity before age 17-- well, there were really two things going on in my head. One: yeah, I KNOW. Two: If I ever passed out copies of the stuff I wrote about my friends, crushes and girlfriends in high school, I mean WHILE I was still in high school with these people, I’m pretty sure I’d have been run out of town on a rail, Harriet-the-Spy-style.

It’s one thing to write a memoir; that’s a memory, a reflection taken later, put into a larger context. Nope, Schrag’s books are not memoirs. They are chronicles, living records practically in real time, recklessly and ruthlessly searching out the truth of her



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[...] my favorite cartoonist

[...] my favorite cartoonist ever, Ariel Schrag.  Oh yeah, and she wrote for the L-word… weird, but kinda cool.  aaaand ps.  an interview [...]