My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi
First, I want to say that as a reviewer, I find it difficult to critically rate someone’s life experience. Most memoirs or autobiographical prose I’ve read either is well-written (or well-drawn) or it’s not. There’s not room for “oh, that action wasn’t believable” or “wow, that character made an out-of-character decision.”
That said, I flipped flopped around a bit on this book if I should’ve given it five or four stars. Obviously, I went with five. Typically, what makes a book go from a four to a five, for me, is an emotional component that speaks to me.
I spend the first chunk of this book utterly identifying with Nagata’s struggles with depression, isolation, anxiety, and loneliness. She portrays the honest reality of what it looks like to struggle. And to fail too.
My internal experiences have never put me where Nagata’s put her, but I couldn’t help but nod my head. I couldn’t help, but tear up at her scenes. Nagata’s vulnerability creates an automatic intimacy with the reader. Even if the book opens with her first escort experience as a flash-forward and hook for the reader.
Nagata uses her art, particularly the portrayal of herself, to further show her decline and her struggles. No doubt, she did neglect to bath herself or buy herself decent, fitting clothing, as many who suffer from depression do. However, throughout the book, Nagata appears sweaty, nervous, maybe with acne blemishes. It is only in rare scenes where her face clears up — as her mind clears up — that she looks more like every other characters in the story.
I enjoyed that, while human connection and sex through the consensual and respectful use of sex workers helps her, she realizes it isn’t everything. That it is not going to cure her. That intimacy is having conversations with people, whether verbal or nonverbal, and that sex is an act of conversation. Conversation is not something she is good at.
I also love books that portray sex as imperfect, as human. It absolutely follows that Nagata wouldn’t know how to have sex. That she’d be nervous and scared and even unable to perform. That giving herself permission to touch another woman — when that woman’s explicitly given her own consent — is a struggle. In her second escort encounter, Nagata even forgets to hug the woman, which was one of her top desires.
One thing I would’ve liked a little more from this book is exploring how and if Nagata came out to her family. Nagata writes about being nervous about publishing this comic, mainly because her family would know she went to a sex worker. However, how suppressed her lesbian desire was speaks to her being incredibly worried about what her parents would think about having a lesbian daughter. Nagata writes a ton about how she’s becoming her own person, not just the person her parents wanted her to be or who she thinks they want her to be, but how does her sexuality fit into that?
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Nagata’s raw words and feelings flow from the page, and definitely made this reader connect on an emotional level.