My sister is visiting me from Philadelphia this week, and she said to me, “I have a cute book for you to read.” Lucky me, she pulls out a book that’s not only a perfect selection for the Illustrated BINGO square, but also as adorable as the tiny nose on the author’s self-illustrated face.
Writer and artist Debbie Tung has assembled a collection of comics that tell the story of her life as an introvert. Her black and white ink sketches are simple and expressive and range from charming to a little bit heartbreaking. In a way this collection is a memoir, as it traces Tung’s struggles to make friends, her relationship with her extroverted boyfriend, her wedding, and finally her leap of faith in quitting a secure but unfulfilling job in favor of pursuing her dream of being an illustrator. She even includes some flashbacks to her childhood, where well-meaning parents dilute her enthusiasm for art by telling her she should go outside and play more, and a teacher advises her parents that Debbie’s grades are good, but she doesn’t talk enough during class and needs to be pushed “out of her comfort zone.”
On the charming end of the spectrum, Tung illustrates her idea of a good time, something to which most of the readers on this site can probably relate.
Cannonballers unite! Quietly, from our own homes, snuggled up with a book.
On the slightly heartbreaking end, she includes a sketch of adult Debbie crying, surrounded by “advice” offered by people who don’t understand introverts:
Ouch! Does anything make a shy person more reticent to speak than someone commanding her to talk? I remember a time in college when I was hanging out with a friend and her crew at a bowling alley. I knew exactly one person in the room, and I was feeling awkward and reluctant to engage. At one point, one of my friend’s more mean-spirited acquaintances, who was having a bad night herself, turned to me and said, “Would you say something, please?” I was at a loss for words and just giggled, a bad habit I still fall back on when I’m uncomfortable. That person meant absolutely nothing to me, yet I still remember the incident 30 years later. Telling a person with social anxiety to talk more is about as helpful as telling a person with road rage to relax.
The problem with books like this is only introverts are ever going to read them. I need my extroverted friends to read and understand why I might be quiet at a party. I’m not mad at you, nothing is wrong, I’m just tired!
So dear extroverted acquaintance, please understand that if I’m sitting alone at lunch time reading a book, you don’t need to worry about me or keep me company. I’m fine–better than fine–I’m probably in heaven. I still love you, I just want to be alone and recharge my batteries right now. I’ll see you at happy hour later, unless I go home first and take off my shoes. In that case, I’ll probably just see you tomorrow.