“Recollections of growing up as a triplet, interactions with oddball grocery-store customers, the adventures of clueless dork Tobias, painfully funny faux Personal Ads, and reflections on Erin’s true-life journey of gender transition.” – Comic Book Round Up
Created by Erin Nations.
Meet Erin Nations. He’s one of three triplets. He’s a cartoonist by trade… or so he’d like to be; right now he supports his cartooning with a day job as a grocery store produce clerk in Portland, Oregon. At the store, he spends his days dealing with needy customers, and outside of work he likes hanging out with friends, exploring Portland on his bike, and sharpening his drawing skills by illustrating bizarre personal ads that he finds in local papers. Erin is also trans and currently going through the transition process, which is another layer of complication in the messy layer cake of complications that we all have when we’re young and restless.
But mercifully this is 2017, so as Erin transitions, he’s given the space to be refreshingly honest about the complications of the process — telling his coworkers and parents about it, how his hormone treatments change his body, and the ways he’s treated differently each day compared to when the world perceived him as female give him a deeper understanding of sexism– how strangers in public listen more to what he has to say, trust him to lift up boxes of fruit, and encourage him to apply to management positions. Along the way, he meticulously chronicles his own dreams and fears, shares stories of the sharing, caring, and fighting that comes from growing up as a triplet, explores how he came to understand his own gender dysphoria, gives helpful tips on how gingers can make it through sunny days. He also details the humorous, touching, maddening, and sometimes scary interactions he has with the people around him – from how simple things like people using his proper pronoun can make his day and the ways his close friends support him during his transition (including recommending holistic remedies to his anxiety… with varied results), to customers who think he needs to find religion, a new coworker who assumes Erin will get a laugh out of his transphobic statements about Caitlyn Jenner because he didn’t know Erin pre-transition, and even an alarming encounter with an aggressive woman on public transit who seemed ready to attack him.
In a political climate where being trans is often reduced to a political issue by both sides of the aisle, Gumballs paints a picture of a person both flawed and triumphant, humorous and serious, forward-focused but not afraid to explore the lingering effects of memory, someone you’ll want to spend time with and learn more about.
When everyone is always trying to force other people into boxes, it takes courage to have the strength to be yourself. In his memoir Gumballs, cartoonist Erin Nations chronicles his journey of self-actualization through a pastiche of stories that are incredibly funny, deeply painful, touchingly personal, and always interesting. Gumballs is an engaging memoir that not only brings visibility to a marginalized group that continues to face discrimination all across the country, but offers a compelling window into the life of a thoughtful, honest person whose own struggles and insecurities can help us understand our own.