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Indestructible

By: 
Lailan Sandra Huen
Date Published: 
October 01, 2006

Indestructible reads like an autobiography, a personal treatise, and a cultural exposé wrapped into one petite yet fierce 96-page illustrated novel. It is a story of self-love and personal empowerment as resistance to all that is fucked up about the world. It’s about survival, and how bullshit makes us stronger even when it brings us pain. It is the coming-of-age story of now Brooklyn based illustrator and zine writer Cristy C. Road; a collage of vignettes about her life as a Cuban teenager growing up in Miami and the communities of Latino, queer, and punk teenagers around her, all struggling with the complexities of gender, sexuality, class, and race.

Through vivid drawings and a series of hilarious, tragic and raw events in Cristy’s life, we meet an endearing lineup of friends, enemies and lovers who inspire, impede and intensify her growth and self-transformation. The fifteen short chapters vividly document the most glorious and horrendous parts of being a teenager: self-hatred and petty competition, realizing difference and learning the basics of how to be an ally, simultaneous rebellion and resilience as reactions to the repression of deviance, building safe communities for survival, drug addiction and other methods of coping with pain, both the positive self-learning elements of sex, and the violating dignity-stealing use of sex to oppress, and the distinctive ability of, as Road puts it, “scavenging for potent methods of optimism and retreat” to deal with the challenges of life.

Central to the storyline is a multifaceted and shifting discourse amongst the young women in the book who debate sexuality, confront daily attacks on their self-determination, and cope with sexual assault and harassment. Wavering between moments of empowerment and patriarchal oppression, we are brought along for the emotional journey from self-questioning, to self-deprecation, to self-assertion. Furthermore, Cristy’s changing relationship to herself and other females—from rejection of the feminine, to trying to fit into gender norms, to competition and isolation, to learning girl-solidarity, to embracing her queerness, to becoming a nurturer and a fierce heroine—demonstrates how much we all grow internally through the rough years from pre-teen to young adulthood, trying to figure out how we want to relate to ourselves and the worlds around us.

Collective empowerment

Growing up as a teenager in Oakland where my idea of resistance was hip-hop and youth organizing, I didn’t identify with punk culture specifically. However, I did identify very much with building personal liberation and identity through resistance to status quo institutions and cultural norms. In this story, I felt alliance with the duty to rebel as a young person and create alternatives; I found solidarity with a culture that at one point I perceived as self-indulgent, but now I appreciate as a space of liberation; and, as an adult who works with youth now, I am better understanding the need to recognize taboo and repressed approaches to coping with oppression—such as drugs, sexual relationships, and embracing music—as legitimate forms of resistance, survival, and empowerment.

At times, I wish that the political commentary in Indestructible was less self-conscious, more “show” and less “tell,” since the storytelling of the beautiful and painful moments of our lives often exposes social realities just as well as, if not better than, naming them outright. On the other hand, I more than anyone understand how important it is to clearly articulate one’s politics and personal reality in a no-bullshit, straight-forward way, and to become whole by naming all of the oppressive systems and ideologies that work to fragment us. Since I am a visual person, one fun challenge from me to Road would be to expand the details of this story and create it as a primarily graphic novel in a kind of Persepolis-style, so that we could feel the power and depth of her story primarily through her dope illustrations, as we mostly get snippets here and there, which definitely enhance the story for me but leave me wanting more.

Reading this book made me laugh constantly, not only for its insightful wit and humor, but also because I so deeply identified with the on-point articulations of being a teenager painfully and intensely trying to find a way to love myself and survive all the bullshit that society puts onto young people, especially those who don’t conform. I had a lot of fun reading this book, and most definitely recommend it to anybody who, like me, had it rough in junior high school, anybody who has ever gone or is currently on a journey into self-love, anybody who has skipped school to go learn directly from the world, anybody who is healing from the trauma of past experiences that made us hate ourselves, and anybody who strives to build a culture of resistance, self-healing and collective empowerment outside of oppressive institutions.

Indestructible
Christy Road (Microcosm, 2006)