Indestructible: Growing Up Queer, Cuban, and Punk in Miami
by Cristy C. Road Author
In her Miami high school Cristy Road valiantly tried to figure out and defend her queer gender identity, Cuban cultural roots, punk rock nature, and mortality. In this illustrated novel, Cristy reminds us of the strength and ability of punk youth—for addressing things like rape, homophobia, and misogyny. This is no exception; giving a voice to every frustrated fifteen year old girl under fire from her peers for being queer or butch or punk.
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Comments & Reviews
There's a raw honesty to "Indestructible" that makes it an engaging and illuminating read.
"I loved reading this book; the illustrations are compelling and visually captivating, and the writing real and raw and fresh; I can totally see why this book is in the 3rd edition of printing. It's worth getting; it's beautifully designed and is a compelling read. Highly recommended."
"...fun, raucous, unapologetic, and deeply honest. If you were a rebellious, queer-questioning teenager who loved to rock, you will definitely find yourself in its pages."
"...a vivid and highly personal account of Cristy’s journey to adulthood."
"Literally drawn from the intersection of Road's Cuban identity, her queerness, punk rock, ...this portrait in black and white is electric."
"...not a typical memoir, this collection dives deep into Road's manic and caffeinated explorations as she forges and accepts her queer identity.""
"Refreshingly candid, Indestructible is a worthwhile read for teenagers who are struggling with their journey in to adulthood, particularly gay teens, and for adults who have forgotten how difficult the teenage years are."
"I just finished re-reading Cristy's coming-of-age illustrated memoir, INDESTRUCTIBLE, which I seem to be able to relate to more and more with every time I pick it up (this would have been my third time). Her flowing, descriptive prose alone can paint a vivid picture in the minds of any reader, but added with her killer, gritty artwork, the novel is an instant page turner. She gives a voice to every frustrated teenager, and a trip back down memory lane to any adult who has ever questioned their roles, or tried to defy the norms. The entire novel looks at gender bias and promotes all youth to question what is "acceptable." She reminds all women that they're still powerful and beautiful no matter how "'ifferent' they are."
Cristy's stories and words remind me why i live like i do. Why i sleep on floors in randomn cities, why i live with a bunch of smelly kids all the time, why i sing along and jump around. its because punk rock is so powerful and beautiful. That the rejected and the confused can have a little village of their own to figure out their shit. So much of the world is bullshit. But yours doesnt have to be if you dont want it to be. Cristy's writing reminds you of that.
This reflective narrative analyzes Road's formative high school years as a Latina outcast in 1990's Miami. Road uses gritty illustrations and wayward text to examine teenage promiscuity and coping mechanisms (read: getting stoned, wired, or shit-faced). Indestructible explores the toxic impact gender bias and proscribed norms have on questioning youth, while encouraging inquiry and protest against social constraints. So powerful is Road's candid portrayal of growing pains, it provides the perfect comfort for angsty, self-loathing youth and sends older readers back down memory lane through their own adventures and mishaps of young adulthood.
Author and illustrator Cristy Road paints her adolescence, particularly high school, as a cultural background where her Latina heritage, sexual curiosity, and love of punk collided with the trappings of popular culture on a 24 hour basis. At times these words seem like a horrible, never ending bit of madness. But on the flipside, readers may feel if they can just quiet the battles raging in their own head long enough, they just might learn something about themselves along the way. Pay close attention to the illustrations, especially those who know the author. You just might be one of the characters in her war zone.
Fifteen chapters about growing up in Florida as a cuban queer woman. There are alot of great drawings that go along with the story, most of Cristy and her friends making trouble. Topics include but are not limited to: drugs, '90s punk bands, the healing power of the 2 minute song, masturbation, queerness and homophobia, writing a zine, rumors about the author, and the death of a friend. The writing is fun and easy to get, but it also makes you think about your own experiences. If you are into personal zines or have read Green zine I'd recommend picking this up - it's a good read.
Indestructible reads like an autobiography, a personal treatise, and a cultural expose wrapped into one petite yet fierce 96-page illustrated novel. It's 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's 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 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.
"In her follow up to the always excellent “Greenzine,” Cristy Road offers up “Indestructible,” an illustrated novel about her experiences as a misfit teenage punk rocker in early ‘90s Miami. Cristy’s rad illustrations and incisive writing give voice to this true story about gender identity, cultural roots, mortality, and punk rock."
Read this in one sitting and it's completely awesome. I can not wait for more of her writings to come out. There better be more!!!
I got this in the mail today, sat down and read it in one sitting. Awesome art, of course, and really awesome, sincere writing about growing up as the underdog (without any self-pity). Cristy rules.
I'll look forward to this. >:D
I can't wait!
Bursting with wild life, true heartache, sassy insight, righteous mouthing-off, desperate crushes, and more gasping laughter than a slumber party. Her artwork is a party on the page, or a riot, or a revolution. With language and imagery she is creating a mural of radical joy.
When you think of Miami, you don’t often think of punk. I grew up in South Florida, I’ve come back here (for now). Miami is anti-punk – superficial, isolationist, materialistic. It’s possible to be punk in this city – to create and exist outside of the mainstream. Yet I’m always curious to see how others form their own identities, their own cultures in a place that doesn’t do much to support them. This is what made me read Cristy C. Road’s illustrated novel, Indestructible – a memoir of adolescence in Miami in the early nineties, the story of a Cuban-American punk rock girl.
Road’s narrative has an emotional immediacy, a social relevance that makes you believe her voice, makes you belong to her world. You forget how old you are, you are with her – drinking a 32 ounce of beer (“because forties were illegal in Florida”), going to punk shows, listening to a two-minute song for empowerment.
She strongly identifies with her Cuban family, her working-class background. She questions everything – beauty standards, sexuality. But she struggles with outside influences that try to dictate her appearance, thoughts and behavior. Her feminist mother tells her to be happy with her unibrow – but Cristy is learning how to “[fish] for strength.” Sometimes she’s not impervious to those influences: “...I weakened and shaved the bridge between my eyes.”
Road learns to talk back to those who tell her she’s not “Latina enough,” or who insist she decide on her sexuality, “choose a side” – gay or straight. She finally secures a hard-won sense of identity when confronting a boy who sexually harasses her at school: “I stopped silencing myself... how nice it would be to one day let ‘shit’ make me stronger.”
The artwork has the same level of immediacy. Road’s black and white illustrations are cinematic frames which include vivid action scenes – a sexual encounter, a fist-fight – as well as intimate, candid portraits of Road and her friends. A particularly haunting picture of a girl named Selene appears throughout the book. She stares at us – unwavering, omniscient.
Sometimes the prose style of Indestructible veers towards the polemic, and takes the reader away from having their own interpretations flow organically from the text. Overall, Road’s novel is a testimony of survival – a powerful reminder of how we must create (and re-create) our identities – whether the mainstream is with us, or not.
I would guess that by now most people in the zine community have either read Cristy Road's writing in Greenzine, or at the very least seen some of her prolific artwork (possibly without even knowing it). If not, you're missing out and should buy this book in order to get a healthy sampling of both. I had the good fortune of doing a reading with Cristy in New York earlier this year, during which she read excerpts from the book, and so I was really looking forward to reading this. It's being classified as a novel, but it's an autobiographical one, with stories rearranged for the purposes of clarity and conveyance of meaning. If you've read Greenzine, you probably know what you're in for. For others, this is a tale of being teenaged in Miami, questioning race and gender, all wrapped up in a messy punk rock package. It's great, and a steal at five bucks.
I've read other stuff by Cristy Road, particularly her Greenzine. And many of you reading this may be familiar with her artwork, which has graced numerous publications, flyers, t-shirts, and so on. It's truly distinctive and carries with it a connotation of what Cristy's writings are all about. She often deals with the topics of gender, acceptance, rebellion, individuality, punk, and queer positive issues. While reading anything having to do with queer issues sometimes goes over my head (not for lack of understanding, but because I'm straight) Cristy does tend to dish out some funny, yet enlightening stories. This particular book, which is sort of a continuation of Greenzine, just with a different name, explores the stories of Christy's life going into high school and coming to discover who she is. In that sense any punk can relate- the confusion, the isolation, the new discoveries, and inevitable liberation/curse of individuality. In that respect this book succeeds. It's just that the path to reaching these conclusions on the written page are, at times, just as confusing as life was when I was 15. The illustrations, as always, are a visual delight.
As I was reading this it struck me that this isn’t unlike a children’s book; albeit one designed for adults. Like a kid’s book it has short chapters, and like a kid’s book each chapter starts out with an illustration. Also like a children’s book – well at least like most of the kid’s books that I remember reading – it’s an awesome read. Originally due to be Cristy’s final issue of Greenzine, one of the best perzines to have been published, she instead decided to release it, with the help of Microcosm, as a book. This acts as a Cristy Road memoir up to the end of high school, and follows the angst of childhood, puberty, emerging sexuality, gender and racial stereotypes all in one fell swoop.
Each chapter is separated into different experiences of growing up, though they don’t necessarily follow any strict chronological order. There are key events, and people, who reappear in more than one chapter, and establish themselves as the backbone to the story, and to understanding Cristy’s experiences of teenage life. The chapters dwell on friendship, lovers, family, punks, life in Miami, and feeling alien to whichever culture she finds herself in.
The feeling of alienation seems to be the core theme that runs common throughout Indestructible, as it did in many issues of Greenzine. She finds the punk scene too white, and punks find her too “Latino,” whilst in her Cuban community she’s seen as being too interested in “white” culture. Likewise at school her emerging, and vocalized, sexuality is seen as a threat, or worse, an invitation to try and fuck with her.
Despite the intensity of a lot of the subject matter Cristy, for the most part, manages to keep upbeat and positive about the world, even whilst listing all the problems with it. Even so, most chapters end with a sense of bitterness that live isn’t easier than it is. Despite this the mood always rises above the pessimism, and certainly the book ends with the reader feeling empowered for themselves, and hopeful that Cristy’s going to end up happy.
With a quick writing style this is a real page-turner and one of those books that’s impossible to put down. The style is helped by the shortness of each chapter, taking up into an experience, through it, and out of it again in a flurry of activity, and with little superfluous dialogue or facts.
As mentioned above, each chapter has some of Cristy’s distinctive art printed with it. If you’ve been in the D.I.Y. punk community for any length of time you’ll no doubt be familiar with her work, even if you don’t know her by name. The art compliments the stories well, and gives an awesome “picture book” feel to the whole publication. It is also so of the best artwork that I’ve seen her produce to date.
I suspect some people may find the book too “emo.” The book is at time emotionally raw, with an unsanitized, and ruthlessly honest examination of Cristy’s teenage experience. Still it is well worth picking up, and I hope Cristy doesn’t end her writing career here, because her words are almost as good as her artwork.
Indestructible by Cristy C. Road
Part punk philosophy, part memoir, Cristy Road's book-length zine Indestructible shows off Road's strength as an illustrator and a deep thinker.
I already knew Road as an illustrator, and I've been consistently amazed by her cool and engaging portraits of punks and misfits. Road's pictures combine gritty elements like garbage, body hair, and frayed clothing with beautiful urban wasteland backdrops. I had actually assumed that this would be a graphic novel and was surprised to open it up and find the illustrations sandwiched between full pages of text.
Indestructible, while it looks like a book, reads like a per-zine. While this is initially jarring, it isn't necessarily a bad thing. Road is a decent writer, and she has had an interesting enough life to foster a whole bunch of great material. What I found myself longing for was more concrete stories from the era Road was attempting to chronicle with this book. Instead, she chooses to lay out lots of gritty philosophy about the nature of punk, belonging, and sexuality. These thoughtful pieces are interspersed with the stories from Road's actual teenage life which feature a rich cast of misfit characters. I enjoyed a great deal of Road's more philosophical musings, especially paragraphs like this:
So, I polished my insults and taught myself that mimicking the slander used by those around me wouldn't make me stronger, but just as tactless. In the argument with Marcus, I used the way I'm socialized to see a small penis as powerless in order to insult Marcus. So I asked myself, do I truly feel this, or am I just aware that many males in the western world are hurt by this? Do I really feel less of Marcus cause his penis might be small, or because his overt sexism is challenging my experience as a teenager? I chose the latter, I was actually terrified of big penises.
But really, when Road tells a good story, like the heart-stopping narrative about a close friend's death, she shows her philosophy rather than tellingit and the book's true power comes through. We get brilliantly descriptive lines like, "The spring before I turned seventeen, my house often smelled like artificially scented soaps."This line precedes the book's strongest segment, an exploration of Road's wonderment over the fact that punk music and the community surrounding it make her really, truly happy. It is a refreshing departure from so much of the angsty pontification that permeates the per-zine genre. This segment is philosophical in nature, but Road uses some affecting real-life stories to illustrate her point, making this part of the book stronger than some other sections where she rambles philosophically without any narrative examples.
One nerdy quibble with this book that I can't avoid mentioning, is the proliferation of typos. I know that perfect grammar and spelling may not fit with the punk ideals of imperfection, but for me being confronted with a glaring spelling error or a poorly punctuated sentence yanks me rudely out of the story and chops up the narrative flow in a sad, sad way.
While Indestructible has a number of strengths, it isn't a perfectly satisfying read. However, with this book we see a writer/artist destined for greatness. What I hope is that in the future, Road creates a true graphic novel showcasing her incredible artistic talent and her enthralling stories. Her pictures and stories do a good job of illustrating the thoughts and ideals behind them even without the accompanying pages of punk philosophy.
Written with incredible honesty, wit, and insight, "Indestructible" tells a compelling story about a quest for identity and self-acceptance. While the book concentrates on Cristy's sexual awakening, it is also a story about finding one's place in the world when one's personality doesn't fit into a nice box. It's the story of every misfit who is trying to navigate their own feelings while trying to avoid being pigeon-holed and stereotyped.
Her style has a distinctive look to it, not unlike Raymond Petitbon, in its animated approach. "Indestructible" basically gives us a crash course on cristy's life to date. To call it a personal zine though would be to sell it short, as she relates each instance in her life to universal issues.