Last week in my library haul, I picked up On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden.
Reading this graphic novel was the start of a lot of firsts for me. When I picked up the book initially, I was floored by the artwork; the scenery was so vast and detailed in my brief flip through. However, there was something that grabbed my attention…
The story takes us through the life of Mia, who is starting a job with a crew reassembling decaying landmarks. Through her travels with the crew, led by Alma and her girlfriend (and captain) Char, we learn how she ends up with them, her troubles in school, and her relationship with a girl named Grace.
Walden takes you back and forth a five year span of Mia’s days in school, to her working on the miraculous fishship. There is this mysterious place called The Staircase, a place where no one has even gone and returned from. Where throughout the story is mentioned, yet only hinted at once through two characters, Grace and El.
The scenery Walden gives us for The Staircase is something straight from a fantasy/sci-fi show. It’s colors, its depth, its mystery and history alone are enough to drag you in, but it isn’t the true star of the show. While there is so much mystery about how and why this almost post-apocalyptic place exists, it does not take the forefront of the story for more than a moment in regards to The Staircase.
This is simply a love story. A story about literal star crossed lovers and one’s journey to find the other.
Every person we meet in the story is a woman with the exception of El who is non-binary. If you stick to genres that are more inclusive, then this isn’t something surprising, but it is for me. There were only empowering women and non-binary characters. Only when I got to the end did I realize this huge, yet miniscule point.
This was my first time reading a LGBT+ focused book of any topic. Not because I simply didn’t care, it was because I was so focused on the topic that I just felt like I I didn’t want to read something I couldn’t relate to. Which, ironically, is the reason that LGBT+ books are made, for people that can’t relate to them. It set aside a lot of biases that I may have had about being open to reading more novels like it. It’s not only about if I can relate to it, but if it’s enjoyable. There are plenty of books that I can relate to that aren’t enjoyable.
Walden really immerses you into the story, into the artwork, into the characters. I still have plenty of questions about the scenes and the history, but I am overwhelmingly satisfied with the ending. The relationships. The power of choice over one’s own decisions, knowing their limits, having determination and just exploring. This is important in my life as of late in finding myself more through my religion. There are things that are right, and there are some things that take priority over overs.
Tillie Walden is a 24 year old American Cartoonist branched out of California.
Want to read some of Tillie Walden’s works? Find all her works and social media here.