Hard Truths

Article by, Drew Van Genderen 
TRIGGER WARNING: This book/article discusses sexual abuse, harassment, & violence 

Writer/Artist: Maria Stoian

Every day people go through a multitude of struggles. For some people, those struggles include sexual aggression, persecution, and assault. We constantly hear about these tragic events in the media, but Maria Stoian (portfolio) has taken the opportunity to show them first hand, as well as the events leading up to them. She does so in hopes that people will see these issues, realize that they are there, and notice warning signs to prevent them. To further authenticate the subject, she has enlisted numerous men and women to share their tales, the results are powerful.

Take It As A Compliment, features true stories of sexually exploitative events that have happened to people. Each is an eye opening story of different scenarios with one thing in common, a wronged victim. Scenarios include many we may have previously only witnessed on TV or in the movies brought to reality such as drunken coercion, blackmail, the discomfort from feeling followed, as well as other unfathomable situations. Many of these stories do show the tragedies that result from these actions, but there are also a handful of stories where a character will speak up, resulting in realistic consequences that range from prevention to embarrassment. Shown through a variety of people from numerous age groups, genders, and walks of life, this books shows an unfortunate but honest look into sexual abuse. Essentially, we are given snapshots into these events, and clearly in a way that works her illustration in with her writing, Stoian manages to hit every powerful beat. Some stories have dread that just hits you at the end, while others start at a normal point and build up a feeling of unease throughout.

Maria Stoian took the information that she was given and has illustrated every one with deviations in style and color, giving each testimony the attention and respect that it deserves. Stoian's stylistic choices soften the blow of the stories just enough so that they are more approachable to the readers. With a book and subject matter of this nature, it is easy for readers to choose not to participate or be put off, and that's totally understandable, some of these peoples' stories are very tough to get through. That being said, Maria's approach and the carefully chosen order of these testimonies makes the subject matter as easy as possible (I use the term easy extremely loosely) for people who would like to know more on the subject and more than anything else, just be aware of it. The subject matter is hard, and Stoian handles it incredibly well, but I don't want to sell her art short amidst these situations. The book is clearly about raising awareness, but please also note the craftsmanship and uniqueness of her art style, and the distinctly different tone it gives each story.

Maria Stoian's book is an important and powerful read. With events drenched in reality and situations that are understandable from all angles (perhaps moreso for some than others), the message comes across loud and clear. Many times, a visual representation helps individuals understand events or in this case the presence of certain acts much better, and this graphic novel does that heartwrenchingly well. This isn't a happy read and many of the stories don't have pleasant conclusions, but all the same the book is an important representation of horrific crimes, sex acts in this case, which happen every day. Check it out, and raise awareness.

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