Spinning, by Tillie Walden
Publisher: First Second (Macmillan)
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.
Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.
She was good. She won. And she hated it.
For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. Skating was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion—and she finally needed to find her own voice.
Coming of Age
Sports (Ice Skating)
I finished Spinning in one reading, sometime in the early hours of the morning. The cadence of the text and images are lyrical, and this graphic memoir depicts a beautiful and at times painful observation of the struggle of coming into one’s own. I could feel the chill of the rink, and the hard work of waking up at 4 am every morning to strive for something that may not even be what is actually wanted.
This is an intimate book, but at the same time the moments that Walden shows feel universal to growing up in terms of the emotions they invoke. Although the pacing is quick and events are touched on but not explored deeply, this felt natural to me. For Walden to delve deeply into any of these moments would turn her memoir into a story she constructs about her life. That would, I think, weaken a work that instead invites us to make our own conclusions and reflect on our lives as we read.
The triumph of Spinning comes from the fact that it can go unsaid that Walden found a new, chosen path in life after ice skating: we’re holding it. The art here is amazing, and a perfect complement to the tone of the story. I highly recommend this memoir.
P.S. Check out El’s great interview with the author of Spinning, Tillie Walden!
Tillie Walden is a cartoonist and illustrator from Austin, Texas. Born in 1996, she is a recent graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies, a comics school in Vermont. Over the course of her time at CCS she published three books with the London based Avery Hill Publishing. She has already received an Eisner Award nomination and two Ignatz Awards for her early works. When she is not drawing comics, Tillie can be found walking and listening to audiobooks or asleep with a cat. She also enjoys studying architecture and tries to incorporate that passion into her comics. Spinning is her first long form autobiographical work.
You can purchase Spinning from:
Barnes & Noble
Or add it to Goodreads
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.