For the Punks and Goths: This Graphic Novel is a Love Letter to BIPOC Femmes and Thems

Book cover of Punk Rock Karaoke by Bianca XuniseBook cover of Punk Rock Karaoke by Bianca Xunise

Punk Rock Karaoke by Bianca Xunise

This book is set in the Southside of Chicago and school is out for the summer. Our main characters are around 19 or 20-ish years old. Ariel Grace Jones is determined for their garage punk band, the Baby Hares, to break into the music industry. They have a repeat festival gig coming up, and music is life. Ariel (aka Ari) is the lead singer, and they write most of the songs for the band. As with many creatives and musicians, the reality of that space between high school and whatever they’re doing next is starting to hit hard, and they’re wondering if they should hang up their guitar and move on. Suddenly, a fellow punk musician and local celebrity starts taking an interest in Ari’s talent, and maybe a little more than their talent. Just in time, too, as drama amongst the Baby Hares band members crescendos.

I love everything about this book. The story is a familiar one, but it’s an important one to keep telling. It’s the kind of graphic novel that will definitely make some people mad. I can imagine the tantrums it’s going to cause, and it’s delicious. This book is unapologetically punk, unapologetically Black, and unapologetically queer. I found it incredibly affirming as a Black queer person who used to go to a lot of goth clubs and would notice that I was the only Black person in sight at a Type O Negative concert. It is so rare I get to see representation like this on the page. Speaking of goth clubs, the scenes in this book in the goth club made me laugh hysterically.

The color palette of this graphic novel is perfect, and yes, I’m biased, because it’s all my favorite colors. Punk Rock Karaoke is simultaneously a big F.U. to the status quo and a love letter to the BIPOC femmes and thems of rock and the community they’ve built despite all the haters and thieves. This is definitely one of the best graphic novels I’ve read this year so far.

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