stone fruit graphic novel lee lai queer relationship transidentity
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Lee Lai
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April 13, 2022
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Family and queer complexities with Stone Fruit by Lee Lai

Exploring aunthood, long-term queer love, and family relations, Stone Fruit by Lee Lai is a sensible and nuanced exploration of relationships.

As much as all queer relationships don’t end up in death and sorrow, they’re not just love and rainbow either. We don’t need to justify our worthiness by being perfect. We have flaws just like others, that need to be shown in art and culture too. We need more than perfect happy stories: we need sad stories, difficult stories, enraging stories, funny stories, complex stories. Stone Fruit achieves this with brio.

Stone Fruit is Lee Lai’s first graphic novel. The young artist, born in Melbourne, Australia, currently lives in Montreal. Through Stone Fruit, she wanted to clarify her mind around parenthood while tackling the subject of chosen family.

The book starts with a fantastical chase. The mystical creatures, not animals but not quite human either, seem joyful and full of freedom. But it’s time for one to go: Amanda is calling, it’s time for her daughter to come back. As she is hanging up, her sister Ray goes back to her regular human self, and the blue tone of the panels suddenly appears cold and austere.

We follow Ray and Bron. Ray is overworked and Bron is depressed. They don’t understand each other. If they seem full of joy while babysitting Nessie, Ray’s niece, the tension is quick to come back once the latter goes back to her mom. As they drift apart, their lives mirror each other. Bron is going back to her conservative Christian family that is not quite accepting of her transidentity and queerness, where she gets to discover her sister more. Ray returns to her sister as well and progressively rekindles their friendship.

With complexity, Stone fruit tackles romantic and familial love from a queer perspective. It puts family, chosen or not, on the same level of importance, and explores the difficulty of relationships within those systems. Lee Lai crafts believable relationships and dialogue, clumsy, hurtful, and profound. Insightful, Stone fruit is a touching representation of queer loss and queer families, one you shouldn’t miss.

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