On Dec. 28 at Sweat Records, artist Cristy C. Road reads from her illustrated memoir Spit and Passion, which depicts her experience of growing up Cuban, working-class, punk rock and queer in Miami during the early 1990s.
The book follows Road from the ages of eleven to thirteen as she deals with her developing sense of sexuality. As an eleven-year-old, she watches a woman, an exotic dancer on a TV show, then locks herself in the bathroom and has an orgasm for the first time. Enveloped by religious imagery such as La Virgen de La Caridad, Road compares what she has been taught with how she feels: “I wondered if sexual liberation was actually unhealthy … Because right then and there — I felt alive.”
Yet her mother, grandmother and aunts are accepting of her in many ways.
“My family was a traditional Cuban concoction of unbridled love and protection,” she said. But it is difficult to confide in them about her sexuality, she added. “There is a monster rumbling beneath the surface of any Cuban household with traditional Catholic values — casual homophobia.”
Whether it’s two boys in Road’s seventh grade class who constantly use the word “faggot,” or two school administrators referring to homosexuality as a disease, there are very valid reasons why she would have been scared to come out.
Road’s drawings are emotive portraits of family, teachers, friends, enemies, and celebrities. Her self-portraits unflinchingly document her different frames of mind from angst-ridden to meditative.
One surreal self-portrait is half Road, half Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead guitarist and singer from the pop-punk band Green Day. As Road listens to their music and reads Armstrong’s interviews, she finds validation for her sexual identity. Green Day also allows her to consider how her sexuality relates to her Cuban working-class background, she claimed.
“According to all the books and newspapers, Green Day lost all punk credibility. They could never go back to the club their scene was built around,” she said. “It could be me—losing the Cuban community… in order to fulfill a prophecy of surviving some day.”
In many sections, the writing style is philosophical. However, a stream-of-consciousness voice takes over at times, mirroring the chaos of adolescence or punk rock, but losing the focus of the narrative. Furthermore, some characters are developed but others are not.
Yet, the central conflict is how Road works on keeping her identities — Cuban, working-class, punk rock, queer — intact. The book does not provide a clear answer to this problem. Instead, Spit and Passion shows the complexity of finding your identity, how you can take refuge as well as risks.
5505 NE 2nd Ave
Friday, December 28, 2012