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I’ve come to realise that, as much as railing against the system or raising a fist to the sky feels like you’re making a big statement, sometimes the quiet voice plainly speaking its own truth is the most convincing.
Texas Tracts are based on a conceit. You may have heard of Chick tracts; you may even have seen them or own them. They are little polemic comics stridently arguing against various social ills as perceived by a very right-wing American version of Evangelical Christianity. They’re held in high regard for the very extreme nature of their politics and the hysterical (with both meanings being applicable) way in which they depict such things as playing Dungeons & Dragons. They’ve become almost like Tijuana Bibles in their underground cache. Look them up online and you’ll easily find examples.
Texas Tracts takes the format of these comics and subverts them entirely. What gives them their emotional strength is the lack of satire or derision of the originals. Instead of trying to knock down Chick Tracts, Texas Tracts dances around them, weaving something beautiful, artistic, and emotionally powerful, showing us beauty instead of spite. Rachelle Meyer uses the power of real experience and calm honesty to undermine everything about those hate filled, hysteria driven tracts.
Drawn in an open cartoon style with plenty of detail where needed, the art is completely in service to the story. It’s got a lovely quality of design and communicates emotion very clearly. It manages to portray happiness without passing into cheesiness helping to add punch to the delivery of the three stories.
These comics detail aspects of her upbringing as a Catholic in Texas. She crafts these simple anecdotes about her experience and delivers them gently and artfully. Each tract builds on the power of those experiences until you reach the end of the third and, at least I did, when you get to the end that final message of hope feels both small, but genuine, hard won and incredibly meaningful. It actually brought a lump to my throat and raised goosebumps. The light tone of the storytelling, particularly the lack of didacticism or high-handed lecturing makes the stories much more human and accessible.
What Rachelle Meyer manages to do is gently and efficiently delineate the bounds of acceptance strictly laid down in the society around her. She makes clear the stakes and consequences faced when either conforming or rebelling against the strictures placed upon her. Then she gently drops the final story in the full knowledge that the impact of what she chooses to do will be fully appreciated by her audience. It’s a very masterful and very mature approach to writing polemical fiction.
We often hear about people talking truth to power and here you can see what power simple honesty has to reach your heart and engage your mind.
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Contents copyright iestyn pettigrew, all rights reserved